Having just watched The Machine, I thought it a clever update on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. At the core, it’s the same story: a misunderstood scientist creates a creature which turns against society/government/the creator. It’s a variation on a Frankenstein theme. Using technology, man crosses into God’s realm and creates a monster. The monster is sweet, pure, childlike. Through adult manipulation, it turns confused often running away or recognized as a “mistake” and is hunted down and destroyed. The story never ends happily and the audience feels empathy for the monster. There have been many films utilizing this theme, and I think it relavant.
Caradog W. James wrote and directed this British Science-Fiction thriller, The Machine. The opening scene really had me hooked. The mishap with the brain-damaged veteran who trips the red alert lights and goes on a reflexive killing spree, and blood disappears into the red-lit room was ghastly and effective. Toby Stephens played the gifted scientist with sensitivity, and the performance by Caty Lotz was mesmerizing. She wowed me as the cyborg creation who grows disenchanted about this new world her creator brought her in to. The film had its faults like the constant darkness of the military fortress or the overly-simplistic evil, military bureaucrat Thompson, who wants to take the creature, Ava, and use her as a weapon of destruction. He is able to manipulate her because Vincent, played by Toby Stephens, is attending to his dying daughter for whom he hoped he could fix.
The purpose of Science Fiction is to raise questions about society and imagine a world if a scenerio played out. The ambiguous, abrupt ending had many reviewers scratching their heads. What makes a human, human? Is Ava alive because she is conscious? Is the daughter alive if her consciousness is captured on a screen but has no body? What kind of life is that? It’s a pertinent issue, and I liked the ambiguity. Was Vincent wrong for saving his daughter? Shouldn’t Ava take the computer plate and pitch it into the ocean? Would that be murder? It raises that ethical question–just because we can manipulate life, should we?
Any time a film produces more questions than it answers has me overlook flaws. The special effects were outstanding in The Machine, and I appreciated the film much more than the critics, apparently, and that’s okay with me. It’s a heavy, dark film and not for everyone.
What film did you like which raised an ethical question about life and death and our human need to control it?