M A G A Z I N E
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Can man love a machine? Can man lust over one? Can a machine manipulate man? These are the questions that Alex Garland asks in his 2014 film Ex Machina. In this Frankenstein-esque masterpiece, Garland explores the intricacies of consciousness through a twisted love story of man and machine. The story is complex; a man named Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson) wins a competition to spend a week with the CEO of a large tech company, named Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac), at his house. Upon arrival, Caleb is told that he will be taking part in the Turing test wherein which he will be judging the ‘human-ness’ of an AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander). The test involves several sessions with Ava wherein which they converse together and Caleb begins to develop feelings for the humanoid.
While the set remains bleak and simple, the aesthetic value of Ex Machina is not something to ignore. With its dully lit scenes intermixed with moments of neon red, we as watchers are forced into discomfort and claustrophobia, despite the house itself being large and spacious, putting us on the moral side of the AI. The overall aesthetic is beautiful. It is extremely modern and somewhat near-futuristic, making the film feel entirely plausible, perhaps even possible. Ava herself is a work of stunning CGI, simple and believable with her chrome body parts and human facial features. While the set and costume design is somewhat of a giveaway to the film’s low budget, it does not in any way cheapen the overall ambience of the film.
The storyline is full of twists that keep watchers engaged, I found myself rewinding certain parts if I had glanced away for any reason. It is a modern version of an old story. Garland wants to explore what Mary Shelley sought to explore two centuries ago with her novel Frankenstein, but instead of leaving the creation of life to a fluke lightning flash, life is programmed. It leaves the watchers in a state of curiosity, much like Caleb, about whether we have free will. Were we programmed into consciousness by a God? Can man create a creature that will surpass us in intelligence and physicality? Are robots really going to take over? In a world of ever-growing technical advances these questions are worth asking and, to begin on your search for an answer, Ex Machina is a pretty good place to start.