Saturday, June 25, 2005

Robot Stories

Robot Stories is an anthology of 4 distinct segments which premiered in the Singapore Fantastic Film Festival this evening, with a common theme of advanced technology or robots taking centerstage.

My Robot Baby
In the future where career minded couples have no time to conceive and turn to adoption, they will have to go through a "baby trial" period, whereby they will be tasked to take care of a baby-like Tamaguchi robot, which looks similar and beeps just like Star Wars' Artoo-Deetoo, sans legs.

The robot records how it is treated by the couple, and without proper care, feeding and cleaning, once the evaluation period is up, the couple will be deemed unsuitable to adopt a human child.

So when career gets in the way of childcare, desperate times calls for desperate measures. While a robot can be hacked and reprogrammed, the same cannot be done for a human child, and critical sacrifices has got to be made. It makes you think if what had been done to outsmart the system is ethical, and reflect upon a statement made by one of the characters early in the film on "never fall in love, never get married, and never have kids" if these sacrifices cannot be made.

The Robot Fixer
A man is lying comatose on a hospital bed, while a mother clings onto childhood memories of her time with her kid. While waiting for her child to wake up from his coma, she inevitably goes through his stuff, with most of her memories being linked with his robotic toys.

While she scours all around town to re-assemble the broken and lost pieces (in the hope that it will jog his brain waves when she speaks and presents them to him), it parallels her determination and never-say-die spirit that her son will one day be able to be with her again.

My guess is any son or mother in the audience, will be able to identify with the characters. As a son, I did, and I know that my mom will go through all lengths to wake me up from that deep sleep, with similar methods and determination. A mother's love is always strong.

Machine Love
Director Greg Pak stars as the protagonist in this segment, a (probably subtle approval to Apple) model G9 iPerson, who's able to self-deliver himself to the company he is bought for.

This segment perhaps dreams of what the future may hold for Artificial Intelligence - that of never-tiring workers who can work at their desks all day without the need for breaks, always responding eagerly to "you got work" calls and striving to accomplish all assigned tasks in the fastest possible speed.

And with AI, this segment inevitably explores the "what ifs" that these lifeforms could have or developed in terms of emotions, and love, as they learn through interactions with humans.

Being the perfect worker, it also brings forth fear into humans on things that we don't understand, and the usual name calling / chiding happens. Abuse also follows with female versions of the iPerson, with lecherous males openly fondling and commenting on why the racks ain't being bigger.

I shan't finish this segment for you, except to comment that these robots sure know the right buttons to push!

This is, in my opinion, the weakest of the four stories, but the one which has the most potential, and features the most human of emotions, that of love, longing and the anticipation of death.

It is an era where the human brain can be mapped onto a computer, so that man can finally beat death, and while the physical person wastes away, the consciousness will forever be alive in an electronic form. The protagonist, however, refuses to use this technology, being a clay-artist, he loathes the thought of designing his craft without feeling or emotions.

However, he uses technology to interact with his dead(?) wife, and with the proper plug in, could also get intimate with her. There is nothing new with this technology feature as it was also shown on screen in Tom Cruise's Minority Report. But interwoven into the narrative is a strong sense of his wanting to be back in the arms of his wife again.

Do stay for the end credits. There is a slide at the end which states that production started on September 10th 2001, and the crew lost one of their own in the WTC attacks. Also after the end credits, one of the dancing robots (featured in the opening credits) will appear with a message on New York.

For those who wish to catch this film, you can do so on Monday where the evening show will be screened at GV Marina.

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