Simulated or cybernetic relationships have been a recurring subject in film. There was “The Stepford Wives” focusing on automated housewives. “Westworld” put tourists in the wild west so they could live out their most heroic or at times, lusty fantasies.
“Blade Runner” presented a future realm where it is difficult to tell an android from a human. More recently “Her” presented an introverted man (played by Joaquin Phoenix) in love with an information system connected to his mobile phone.
Now from Maria Schrader, “I’m Your Man” illustrates what happens when a researcher tests an android companion for three weeks. The film is opaque and thoughtful and resists easy interpretations.
A German anthropologist Alma (Marren Eggert) agrees to take part in a study where she takes in a male android Tom (Dan Stevens). At first they are at a nightclub and Alma has stars in her eyes, flabbergasted by the new technology. Tom is so lifelike with his chiseled handsomeness and bright blue eyes. Unfortunately, there is a glitch in the software and Tom is stuck saying “I am…I am…I am…”
No matter, Alma gives Tom another try. As the pair live together, Alma grows frustrated by Tom’s uniform responses and neutrality. He apologizes saying he will modify his algorithm.
Things move blandly on until Alma gets drunk. Suddenly Tom shows anger. He can perceive her preferences, a kind of learning. Alma becomes infatuated, attached to her digital mate.
Dan Stevens delivers a fine performance reminiscent of David Bowie’s “A Man Who Fell to Earth.” Tom is interested in the human world and a strange catlike wonder crosses his face.
Alma wants to be head over heels with Tom but periodically a spark of disinterest comes over him. Alma realizes that the blue swirls of detachment will never completely exit from him.
Sandra Huller (“Requiem”) makes an appearance as a robot social worker.
In one eerie yet humorous scene a fellow researcher (Jurgen Tarrach) plans to marry his android fiancé and couldn’t be happier.
Some will undoubtedly classify this film in the cult category but its deadpan dialogue catches one off guard as much as it charms and challenges our conceptions about what constitutes a human relationship and qualities of intimacy.
Tom is the ideal reflective man: look into his face and he will return an equal response. The customer will see exactly what she or he wants to see. Alma looks into a field of blue and that is exactly what is returned to her, no more, no less.
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