Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Talking Tribeca: Zoe

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

Directed by Drake Doremus
Gala Centerpiece

Robots exist in some form in most visions of the future, and the notion that functions currently performed by human beings are likely to be transferred to machines is almost universally acknowledged. The use of artificial intelligence for non-vital tasks, including as entertainment and vessels for pleasure, is a trope frequently explored in science fiction and both utopian and dystopian realities that might come to pass. A robot programmed to do exactly what someone wants it to bears great promise, but the ability to be authentic in something that is inherently part of code is truly difficult.

In a time that might as well be the present one, Cole (Ewan McGregor) works as a respected designer of synthetics, human-looking androids who are supposed to provide companionship to human beings, an evolution from the commonplace models that serve primarily as gardeners and in other service positions. He works with Zoe (Léa Seydoux) on a machine that calculates the compatibility of a couple and their likelihood as a new drug that allows two people who take it to believe they are falling in love, as the two try to navigate what it means to actually feel when two can no longer tell what has been manufactured and what is true.

There have been a number of films in recent years dealing with technology and how it can affect relationships, setting people up for predestined pairings because of an intellectual or genetic similarity. In almost all cases, those in such a system seeking actual love with rebel against it and prove how science and math can’t explain everything. “Frequencies” is a particularly memorable example, and director Drake Doremus’ previous film, “Equals,” which deals with the oppression of all emotion for the betterment and productivity of society, addresses similar themes. In “Zoe,” the machine call tell you whether you’re meant to be together, an affirmation of feelings meant to celebrate them if, indeed, the coupling is calculated to be compatible. It’s certainly a fascinating area of study, and one that always presents newly interesting ideas.

McGregor is a good choice to play a man so passionately into his work that he becomes part of it, searching through the machine’s database each day for a match for himself. Seydoux, a tremendous part of “Blue is the Warmest Color,” embodies the film’s title character as a sincere adherent of the notion of true love and what their work can do to help bring people to each other. Its presentation of a world governed by temptation and the way in which drugs meant to create connection become just as addictive as anything dangerous on the market today is mesmerizing, and, though it can’t hope to reach a transcendent finish, the road there is appropriately intriguing and involving.


No comments: