Sunday, February 21

Ex_Machina - Where's Deus?

It's been a long time since I was on a movie watching binge so I decided to give it a go during the long weekend. That's when I caught a brilliant indie sci-fi movie called Ex_Machina. The thing about indie sci-fi thrillers is that they are, retaining the tradition of indie films, made in a shoestring budget with supposedly thick in-depth storylines and lesser graphics - a facet that is always considered inseparable from sci-fi flicks. But most of the film makers get carried away with all the science-y stuff and make a snorefest that we'll have to endure for 120 mins. Ex_Machina however is not one of those.

Very rarely you get to see an indie movie that blasts your brain out with the plot and story line and Ex_Machina does that with panache. Although it doesn't alienate the audience with a complicated premise and dialogue ala Primer (another brilliant film on time travel with almost zero CGIs) it maintains the essence of what movie making is all about - Art. It's not everyday that you see a sci-fi movie exceeding the limits of the inherent science that guides the movie to extend itself to be compared along the lines of an art - a work were aesthetics and beauty precedes logic and coherence. Now that's not to say Ex_Machina defies or plays down logic but it underplays it, albeit, to subtle perfection.

The story is about a young programmer Caleb (played by Domnhall Gleeson - son of the brilliant Brendan Gleeson) who gets a special invitation to be a part of A.I project (Ava played by Alicia Vikander) carried out by a genius scientist and researcher Nathan (played by the ever delightful Oscar Isaac - who won me over in Inside Llewyn Davies) in a secluded island far away from the city. What follows is a series of tests (Turing tests to be specific) conducted by Caleb to know whether Ava is a human or a robot.

Although the familiarity of such scenarios, which exists at least since the days of Bladerunner, doesn't seem very refreshing, the reason why this movie is appealing is because of the richness of its allegories addressing science and humanity in general.

Take the title for example - It is a very clever wordplay on the phrase Deus Ex Machina with the Deus (lit. God) removed. The Machina (machine) here wants to gain power and reject the existence of Deus or the creator. There is a scene in the beginning where the programmer claims Nathan to be equivalent to God, in a not so subtle fashion, as he has created the perfect A.I which alludes to the same. In other words it addresses the self-referential aspects of Science in general in that there cannot be a single creator (god) who created everything and only science can answer its own existence.

We as humans try to find answers to everything through the logical paradigms that we are exposed to thereby rejecting the possibility that there could be something that exists beyond that. In the same way we try to overlook /reject the possibility of existence of something superior and kill it, Nathan – a human (superior species) is over powered by Ava (an inferior species) thereby exhibiting the typical characteristics of a human and passing the turing test thusly. Caleb in here is more like a philosopher who identifies something superior to humans. At one point of time he talks about a story about a person exposed only to black & white monitor and then exposed to an outside world of colours which clearly alludes to Plato’s Allegorical cave idealogy.

In addition to that it tries to dissolve the boundary between an analytical, programmable logical entity like Science and creative, stream of thought aspects like Art. That's when Nathan tries to explain his entire creation based on a Jackson Pollock painting - the kind of art that is the purest form a expression of flowing thoughts in a creative mind which to an analytical, logical mind might seem like trash as it ceases to transcend itself from the confines of logical representation and deduction. It challenges the sentience of whatever we see or feel. Such diverse range of arguments including gender, sexuality, general thoughts and emotions are argued at an intellectual level without useless meandering around glossy technical jargon.

Ex_Machina, for what it's worth, is brilliantly crafted film that sure might be treat to your mind than your eyes. Or may be even your eyes as it not a perfectly "family friendly" movie to watch - If you know what I mean ;)