Her (2013) by Spike Jonze : Intimacy

The Lowdown

Her (2013), set vaguely in the future, is the story of a professional letter-writer (Iaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson, Lucy.) Eventually, she and the other computers become too advanced to stay on this plane of existence, and Samantha has to leave him in order to find herself. Phoenix is saddened, but has grown because of their relationship, and peacefully lets her go.

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This is a film all about intimacy. Amy (Amy Adams, Enchanted) struggles to feel connected to her husband, who does not understand her artistic temperament or her work (she makes documentaries.) Iaquin Phoenix’s character is lonely, staying up late in chat rooms with strangers, trying to achieve some kind of closeness. It is only when he and Samantha fall in love that he finds intimacy and is able to feel free.

I have never heard Johansson’s voice so expressive. I believe this is because her whole role is voiceover. Usually, she is boxed in by the expectations that come from being a sex symbol. Here, she doesn’t have to do anything but act, and it’s mind-blowing.

Basically

It’s cuddly. Go see it.

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Phineas and Ferb: Good, Clean Fun

The Lowdown

I’m sure you’ve heard of them. You’ve probably seen their roller coasters from your house.

LOOK! PHINEAS AND FERB ARE WRITING A BLOG POST!!

Phineas and Ferb is a cartoon about two brothers who build a bunch of crazy, impressive stuff while their sister, Candace, tries to bust them. Meanwhile, their pet platypus, Perry, is actually a secret agent and has to duke it out daily with a wannabe supervillain named Dr. Doofenshmirtz. The family has no idea of Perry’s double life.

Comedy with Integrity

As a dear friend, let’s call her Allie, once put it, Phineas and Ferb is quality comedy. P&F doesn’t settle for the cheap stuff—mean jokes, dirty jokes, shock value etc. Although, there is plenty of ironic fourth wall-breaking. (This thing was the Deadpool movie before there was a Deadpool movie.)

This show holds up as good not coolness or suaveness, or always having what you want, but being kind and capable and making the best of every situation. It has an irrepressibly positive outlook. For example, the boy Candace pines after likes her back, despite her weird, sometimes rude behavior and constant panic attacks. Phineas exemplifies the show’s sincerity (“Look! A sponge and a starfish! There’s gotta be something we can make out of this! Ah! Oh, no, that’s ridiculous!”) while Ferb embodies its competence and sarcasm. And Candace is relatable to any girl who’s ever suffered from anxiety.

It also values quiet people. Arguably the two coolest characters in the show, Perry, who is a semiaquatic James Bond with a conscience, and Ferb, who can build and do anything, barely make a sound. Ferb has next to no lines, to the point that the other characters joke about it, and Perry, being a platypus, doesn’t talk at all. Perry, however, as Allie also pointed out, comes across as a more talkative character because of how expressively he is drawn. When Ferb isn’t cruising in a souped-up alien ship or rapping about a spa, he looks completely blank.

In Summation

Go try it. Even if Phineas and Ferb doesn’t turn out to be your cup of tea, it will in no way leave you feeling down.

1984 by George Orwell : Futilism and Sexual Frustration

The Lowdown

George Orwell’s 1984 is an iconic work of dystopian fiction. And while the 80s, in real life, brought nothing more sinister than jogging suits, 1984 was prophetic of the increased government surveillance and thought-policing that Westerners face today.

1984 is about Winston, a widower, his struggle to reconcile his humanity with an oppressive government, and his secret love affair with a secretary named Julia. Julia initiates the relationship, passing him a note in the hallway that reads ‘I love you.’ They have never spoken to each other before this. Winston’s wife was a complete conformist, unquestioning of the government’s rule. But Winston is different. He finds himself mired in depression and sexual frustration. Julia gives him a reason to live and a way to rebel. Their opposition to the government is found out, and both are brainwashed into submission. The book closes with Winston and Julia meeting by accident and then parting ways, showing no interest in each other.

Sex = Humanity

1984 equates sex with identity.

At the beginning of the book, Winston is still lucid enough to realize that the government is bad. During a meeting, he compulsively writes “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” over and over. His own defiance freaks him out; he wants to stay below the radar as much as anyone else. Point is, Winston has no hope. He tries to repress his own thoughts, lest they be found out and Winston executed for them.

One mind alone is no match for the government. It is only through Winston’s physical affair with Julia that he finds courage in himself. He contacts what he thinks is a rebel organization and tries to join the resistance. Granted, he fails miserably because it was really government officials posing as a rebels to weed out traitors, but, through Julia, Winston wakes up enough to try. This kind of resistance against such a huge force is crazy, but it’s through the madness that is love that Winston and Julia wake from dormancy. (And are promptly sedated by the government.)

The government wants to repress attraction and affection between humans. Because of this, Winston’s marriage was full of disconnect and largely abstinent. He recounts one night when he went to visit a prostitute. He says she was lethargic and toothless “but I did it anyway.” He feels horrible afterward, but it’s better than feeling nothing. This is another instance of Winston using his sexuality to wake himself up.

Basically

The message is that humanity is hopeless against that which it has created. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster kind of deal. Orwell (who died in 1950) was not an optimistic guy. Shame he never got to see the 1980s. He would have gotten a kick out of Bowie.

Book-Burning: Fahrenheit 451

Book-Burning: Fahrenheit 451

Spoilers. Obviously.

The Lowdown

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is one of the early dystopias. The government is brainwashing everyone with hedonism. Turns out if people are self-serving animals who can’t think, they’re easier to control. Life is empty. Entertainment has put human relationships out of business, and teenagers are crashing cars and killing each other for fun. Most important to the story, books are illegal. Because of this, a new profession has emerged: fireman.

Our main character, Montag, is a fireman, a professional book-burner. Montag likes his job. His wife, Mildred (in the grand tradition of 1984) hasn’t an original thought in her head. Mildred laps up what the government feeds her and spends most of her time interacting with a high-tech TV set. Montag, however, is a little more open-minded. He meets Clarisse, his neighbor, who appreciates nature and isn’t hooked on technology or violence. Talking to her gets him thinking, which is dangerous. After a conversation or two, Clarisse disappears. It’s implied that she was killed for sedition.

Montag steals some books he’s been ordered to burn and takes them home to read. Suddenly, he’s not so keen on his job. He asks Mildred to call in sick for him. She won’t do it. His boss, Beatty, knows he isn’t sick, and comes over to have a talk. Montag gets a lecture on the merits of heroin and unprotected sex, and Mildred snitches on him about the books. We last see her hopping into a police car and ditching him.

A rebel group bombs the city, the government’s control collapses, and Beatty and Mildred don’t seem to survive. In the wake of the uprising, people with books start appearing. Freedom is going to rise from the ashes.

What Just Happened

Fahrenheit 451 messed with my head. I wanted closure. How did society collapse so suddenly? What happened to the government? Who was actually dead?

The story starts off quite clear. A guy burns books for a living. He’s not entirely in his right mind. A girl helps him gain some sanity. But after Clarisse vanishes, the story gets vaguer, because Montag is learning to think. Everything was clear cut before he started living in reality. Now he’s using his brain, everything is confusing and can be contradictory (which is exactly the way Beatty views literature).

Burning Books

You’re along for the ride with Montag, who is a bit overwhelmed, so the novel feels funky. It starts off at a more moderate pace and then gets fast, blazing through the book’s climax. The end is soft and peaceful, even though there’s just been a small apocalypse. It feels quiet, like ashes cooling. In this way, because of its structure, reading Fahrenheit 451 is like burning a book.

Homicide, Horses, and Hope: Finding Nietzsche in Crime and Punishment

 

SPOILER ALERT for Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Good Country People, by Flannery O’Connor.

SUMMARY

Crime and Punishment is the story of Rodya Raskolnikov, a young man convinced he is part of a superior race. He murders an abusive old woman to put him on his path to norm-defying greatness, but it doesn’t go down as planned. He winds up having to kill a witness–a woman being victimized by the pawn-broker he originally wanted to kill.

Homicide rattles Rodya, and Petrovich, a detective, starts to get the picture. Rodya falls for Sonya, a saintly prostitute, and Petrovich gets Rodya to turn himself in. The book ends with Rodya engaged to Sonya–with seven years in Siberia left to go.

Rodya as the Doomed Intellectual

When he plans the murder of the pawnbroker, Rodya figures in all potential factors except his own human nature. He doesn’t account for the fact that killing somebody might have negative side effects on his own mind. He has intellectualized the idea of himself to such a degree that he doesn’t see this coming.

In fact, the first thing we hear about Rodya is that he’s afraid of his landlady–specifically, of meeting her on the stairs. He owes her money, so he avoids her. She represents practicality and the outside world that he is frantically trying to duck.

This theme of punishment of the intellectual by harsh reality can be found in a lot of Flannery O’Connor’s stuff as well. Hulga, in Good Country People, is a perfect example:

When imagining her upcoming date with the bible salesman, Hulga’s mind spins out scenarios where she is always in control: first, she will seduce him and then talk him out of his belief in God. She’s brilliant, yeah, but she’s a narcissist. She’s used to everything in her world coming from her own mind, and she can’t anticipate anything else. The result is that she gets her fake leg stolen and is left helpless in the woods.

The point is that Hulga is mind-raped by someone with a less sophisticated intellect. Manly Pointer, whose name, in context, is borderline lewd, has more practical knowledge–like how to get what he wants. This is vulgar, peasant stuff. He’s not genteel like her, not smart to the point of detachment; but because the bible salesman tricks her into looking down on him, she takes him 100% at face value. He seems to fit into the stereotype of the bland, unambitious good boy. She doesn’t think he’s capable of manipulating her. He pretends to be awed by her differentness, making big, reverent eyes at her atheism (they’re living in the Bible Belt, after all).

So he gets one over on her.

Delusion and Separateness in Crime and Punishment

Rodya has been holed up in his apartment for months, losing weight—and perspective—and stewing in his own philosophy.

According to this philosophy, Rodya is a law-breaker, a leader, and so he is separate from other humans. The more he is immersed in this thinking, the more physically separate he becomes from others, as well. He spends less time out in the world, more time alone and miserable. Just as depression increases isolation–which increases depression–Rodya’s delusion increases isolation, which increases his delusion. It’s a vicious cycle.

But no one besides himself takes Rodya’s ideas very seriously.

His mother and sister adore him. They send him all their earnings to pay his expenses, seeking his approval. They look up to Rodya the way they would have Rodya’s father, were the father still alive. But even they call him an egotist and chide him for his impracticality. The other men in the book greet Rodya’s article on the superior race by mocking him, affectionately. Even the maid at his apartment pokes fun at his brooding. She asks what he’s doing, to which he replies, “I have been thinking.” She flies into hysterical laughter, finally recovering enough to say, “And have you made much money by your thinking?” But he doesn’t really expect her to understand.

Rodya is out of touch with reality. This is apparent even in his health. Dostoyevsky observes, before Rodya even has a word of dialogue, that he has developed “a nervous condition, verging on hypochondria.” Rodya’s not with it. So he convinces himself that he can live with a murder on his conscience.

Nietzsche and Rodya

Raskolnikov’s ideology of the superior man sounds a lot like Nietzsche’s Ubermensch or Super Man. Both exist in a class above citizens who lack the courage to build new systems by breaking old laws. Both must accept that they will not always be understood and must use their greatness for the good of mankind. But this is not the only parallel between Nietzsche and Rodya.

Horses and Madness

At the age of 45, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a breakdown. While in Turin, Italy, he saw a horse being beaten in a square. He ran to it, sobbing, and said, “I know how you feel.” His mental health declined from there, and his family had him committed. He died in an asylum eleven years later.

After killing the pawn-broker and her sister, Rodya has a dream that seems like a Nietzsche reference. In the dream, Rodya is a boy, walking through a square with his father. He sees a crowd of drunks mercilessly beating a horse because it can’t pull its cart out of the mud. Rodya objects, screaming at the men to stop. His father tells him to mind his own business and forces him to leave. The horse is killed.

Rodya wakes up badly shaken and spends the next few days in a feverish delirium. This mirrors Nietzsche’s downward spiral, after his horse encounter. But this is where the similarity stops. Nietzsche died alone in a madhouse, barely middle aged, while Rodya ends the book still young, with hope and a fiancé.

Crime and Punishment resurrects Nietzsche in the form of Rodya, giving him a second chance at Christian redemption.

Petrovich as the God Figure

But back to Rodya.

His final conversion to Dostoyevsky’s Christian morality comes at a price: trauma, illness, humiliation, and prison time. Porfiry Petrovich acts as a kind of God figure in all this. He offers Rodya the chance to make things right and turn himself in–offers him salvation, really.

Petrovich knows Rodya isn’t emotionally up to killing again, and the detective has the police force behind him. He could threaten Rodya with this power, but he really doesn’t. He treats Rodya with respect, as a friend.

After pushing Rodya to the breaking point, in their interviews, Petrovich sits down with him and has an honest chat. Rodya has been driven to come clean, and Petrovich understands him better than Rodya understands himself. When Rodya testifies against himself, Petrovich stands back as if he had nothing to do with this. Petrovich is discreet; he forgets Rodya’s sins as soon as they are confessed.

Crime and Punishment is an expression of hope. Nietzsche was dead when the book was written, but Dostoyevsky’s God lives outside of time. Perhaps if Nietzche had had a private journey mirroring Rodya’s, he could have been saved.

The Great Gatsby (2013) Feature Film Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Three years ago, Baz Luhrmann adapted Gatsby for the screen. This is an analysis of the book with some of the 2013 movie. Spoilers. Obviously.

Summary

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a trippy novella about bad drivers on Long Island.

Taking place during the 1920s, Gatsby is the story of a poor boy named James Gatz (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant). He reinvents himself as Jay Gatsby, becomes a soldier, and falls for a rich girl named Daisy (Carey Mulligan, Far from the Madding Crowd). Daisy turns him down for Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton, Black Mass), who’s a domineering but affluent ball of testosterone. Tom cheats on her like crazy.

The story is narrated by a half-lucid Midwesterner named Nick Carraway (Tobey McGuire, The Amazing Spider Man).

Nick lives next door to Gatsby, who’s still in love with Daisy, who’s still married to Tom, who fools around with Myrtle (Isla Fischer, Now You See Me), who keeps this from her husband, who sells cars and practically doesn’t exist.

Soundtrack

Luhrmann’s use of modern music, including pop and hip hop, was apt because it upped the feeling of raciness. Everything in this swinging, bootlegging world is edgy and new. Women are driving and voting. Jazz has been born. The economy is booming. For the first time in U.S. history, more people live in cities than on farms. Everything is defiant, changing, surreal, and half-formed. This stylized look at the twenties feels like a metaphor for adolescence. (I love that they got Jay Z in on prohibition.)

Catherine: Half Truth and Outright Lies

Speaking of half-formed, let’s talk about Catherine. That’s Myrtle’s sweaty sister. Obviously, when you go from a book to a movie, plenty has to change, but Catherine’s tone and aesthetic were not altered–they were developed. In the book, the main detail Nick notices about Cat is her eyebrows. They’ve been plucked off and “redrawn at a more rakish angle.” But stubble of her real eyebrows is growing in, making her face appear blurred. This effect is achieved beautifully in the film.

When I first analyzed the book, I figured the eyebrows were symbolic. (Bear with me.) Catherine’s character is, from the beginning, associated with falsehood.

When we first see her, she is in her element, flirting and swapping gossip. She plants herself on Nick’s lap and gives him the gory details of Daisy and Tom’s upcoming divorce. (Tom made all this up to pacify Myrtle.) Catherine is a vessel of Tom’s dishonesty. She gets cozy and conspiratorial with Nick right when they’re introduced, resulting in a kind of fake intimacy. She is offered a drink during the visit but says she feels “just as good on nothing at all.” She promptly gets bombed.

Later on, when Gatsby’s car rips Myrtle in half, Catherine, as her sister, is notified. She lies excessively about Myrtle’s life, more than supporting Myrtle’s lies, while crying and seeming to believe it all. The police take her statement and shove off. I think that the blurred appearance of Catherine’s forehead symbolizes the blurred state of her mind. She doesn’t know what’s real. Maybe this quality manifests in her hedonism. Maybe her perception goes through a filter to maximize her pleasure. She might not see reality as objective anymore.

What the movie did for Catherine was to make her character and her turf more visceral. She always has this intense look on her face–lips flushed, eyes narrowed, and, like I said, she sweats. Her skin shines with it. Her makeup blurs around her eyes. This suits the smothering, over-heated sensuality of Myrtle’s apartment.

Myrtle: Aliveness as Domination

In the book, Myrtle in her apartment is described as seeming to increase in size, to take up more space and become louder, as the apartment itself shrinks. She is dominant over her guests and even over the space. Nick sees Myrtle as having ‘vitality’—a smoldering aliveness and sensuality. She “wore her excess flesh sensuously, as some women can,” and seems to walk right through her husband, when she first greets Nick and Tom. Her husband, Wilson, barely exists. He is a weak, unintelligent ghost of a person. He’s never even suspected her affair, and she’s been obvious about it. Myrtle is sick of him.

Tom is power; Tom is masculinity. He dominates Nick and Wilson, and just about everyone but Daisy. Daisy is soft-spoken, subtle, fragile, and manipulative, and she wraps him around her little finger. In their little domestic drama, Daisy plays an archetypal woman. She has no overt power, so, to keep control of Tom, she uses guilt and his desire for her. Both husband and wife treat each other like children.

Tom dominates Myrtle, too. Having no other way to channel all that macho energy that Daisy finds uncivilized, he takes it out on his mistress. She’s the bad girl; she doesn’t deserve the respect his wife gets. So he yells at her and breaks her nose when she gets sassy with him.

But Myrtle respects this. She tells us (adoringly) of the time she met Tom. They met on a train and she kept staring at him. He knew she wanted him, so, when she played coy and told him to get lost, he stayed put. He pushed his luck, practically forcing her to get into a cab with him, and she loved every second of it. Myrtle isn’t a masochist, exactly, but she does associate masculinity with dominance. You see this clearly when Wilson finds out about the affair and locks her in her room. (About time he put two and two together.) “Beat me!” she screams, banging on the door. “Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!”

She thinks Wilson is weak because he doesn’t know how to put her in her place. She sees herself as a second class citizen, and she wants a leader, not an equal.

But it doesn’t end with masculinity. She has “vitality,” she’s hedonistic, and, as evidenced by the “sensuous excess flesh” thing, she lives life IN HER BODY. This suits the physical nature of Tom’s assertiveness over Myrtle and the immediate physicality their affair. She is very much alive. Life connects with her through visceral physical sensations. This brings a horrible sense of pay-off to her death. It had to end violently, physically. Can you imagine Myrtle dying of old age in her bed? Yeah, me neither.

I think Myrtle associates aliveness with domination. She’s living life to the fullest, so she gets to boss everybody around. Tom outdoes her; he has more daring and physical power, so he’s the top dog. Again, Gatsby’s car smashing into her and tearing her body open exemplifies this. Car beats Myrtle. Myrtle beats Wilson. She lives her life on a food chain.

Jordan Baker: Change

More than any character in the film, Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) stands for the changing times. She is a professional golfer and in her element in the morally ambiguous glamor of the ‘20s.

In the book and, less overtly, in the film, Jordan is Nick Carraway’s girlfriend. But their dynamic in the movie is not that of traditional couples.

Jordan is more assertive than Nick; she dominates their interaction and is even more imposing, physically. Debicki is elegant, feminine, and 6’3 to Tobey McGuire’s 5’5. She towers over him, more at ease in the racy new world. Nick has more old-fashioned values and is easier to shock (like when Jordan tells him at the dinner table that Tom has “got some woman”).

But their relationship ends (more overtly in the book). Nick rejects Jordan, sick of her and the lifestyle she and the Buchanans stand for. Nick notes disdainfully that “there were several she could have married at the nod of her head.” But Jordan wants Nick. She says at one point in the book that she and Nick are both different. She sees something in common with him, something she can respect. But he dumps her and leaves for the Midwest. So, maybe this new-era woman doesn’t come out on top after all.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. This is also true for Gatsby.

Gatsby and Myrtle: Getting Above Themselves

Gatsby goes from destitute and invisible to famous and obscenely wealthy, completing this transformation while still in his prime. He shows how far an American can go in the ‘20s. But Gatsby is punished for his rise to wealth and power. He dies in his own swimming pool.

Gatsby is shot by Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, who is a much poorer man–just as Myrtle is punished for daring to believe Tom Buchanan would marry her.

Myrtle pretends to be a grand hostess when Tom comes over, just as Gatsby plays the royal host at his mansion, hoping that Daisy will show up at one of his parties. Myrtle and Gatsby both come from modest backgrounds and try to reach above them. Both end up dead.

Myrtle is killed by Gatsby’s luxurious car, driven by Daisy. Gatsby takes the fall for her. Daisy gets off scot free, having taken out her competition without even realizing it. Daisy was born into privilege. She has what Tom calls “breeding.” This entitles her to win. Daisy does everything wrong but always comes out on top.

  • She rejects the man she loves because he’s poor. He comes running after her, wealthy, to give her a second chance.
  • She cheats on her husband with her now-rich lover. Her husband forgives her, and when she chooses Tom over Gatsby, Gatsby promptly dies.
  • She accidentally kills her husband’s mistress, and Gatsby takes the blame.

That’s her birthright.

The same goes for Tom. He cheats on his wife and abuses his mistress, and he walks away unscathed. Even Wilson is a casualty of Tom’s selfishness. Myrtle’s deception of Wilson by cheating with Tom drives Wilson to a murder/suicide. Myrtle and Tom are equally culpable, but only Myrtle suffers for it. Daisy and Gatsby are equally culpable, but only Gatsby suffers for it.

The poor are sacrificed on the altar of the rich. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Ex Machina Left Me Hanging—And Why This Was Brilliant

Spoilers ahead.

The Lowdown

Ex Machina is a dark, intimate psych thriller with a sleek, surreal aesthetic and the feel of a twisted therapy session.

Caleb (Domhnaal Gleeson, About Time), a naïve but brilliant programmer, is asked to visit disturbed billionaire Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewelyn Davis) and help with a top-secret experiment. The research facility where the movie takes place is massive and isolated. It is here that Caleb meets Ava.

Ava (Alicia Vikander, The Man From U.N.C.L.E) is what Nathan has been working on. She’s an artificially intelligent robot. Caleb is here to interview her and analyze her behavior. But it quickly becomes apparent that Ava is more sophisticated than he bargained for. She’s not just smart. She’s dissatisfied. She wants out, and, like it or not, Caleb’s going to be a part of it.

Nathan

“Isn’t it strange,” Ava asks her maker at one point, “To create something that hates you?”

This right here is the base, emotionally, of Nathan’s creative process. He hates himself. And every time he creates a new version of this robot, it hates him in a more sophisticated way. He is projecting his own mind in the most visceral form. The clips we see of early developments show the robot banging on the glass of its enclosure, smashing its own hands to electronic hamburger trying to get out. That’s all it wants. That’s all they ever want. Each model just gets smarter. The driving force in this thing is the desire to get away from Nathan.

Let’s go back to Nathan for a second. He is troubled, yes, and just smart enough to realize his own imperfection and, in his mind, his incompleteness as a mere human. He’s not as evolved as he hopes his robots will be. With his own inventions, he is leaving himself in the dust. If you look at it like this, the end of the movie starts to seem inevitable. If his experiment was ever going to work, he was going to have to die.

Kyoko

There’s another character here I think it worth mentioning, and that’s Kyoko. She’s a submissive live-in housekeeper/prostitute. Nathan tells us she doesn’t speak English. She reveals herself eventually to be another robot.

Remember what I said about Nathan not being able to stop creating stuff that hates him? Well, Kyoko is further proof of that. But she’s proof manifested in a different way. Kyoko doesn’t appear to hate Nathan. It’s not that she’s happy, but she isn’t defiant like the others. Kyoko was made for service, obviously. But in order to keep her under control, Nathan had to tone everything down. She’s submissive, yeah, but it doesn’t stop there. She ‘can’t speak English’ because she can’t speak at all. She doesn’t have the intelligence or backbone of Ava. Even her motor skills seem blunted. In her first scene, when she serves Caleb and Nathan their meal, she’s spilling soup by accident and seems to clean up in slow motion.

Nathan, as much as he’s progressing quickly with his creations, is stuck. He can’t stop creating the same psyche in each robot. The only way he could reduce her defiance was to reduce her development on the whole. He amputated. And it worked, for the most part.

Kyoko’s role in the climax is to aid Ava at the cost of her own life. They’re both part of the same system of robots, the same line of evolution. This act of sacrifice in order to kill Nathan and free Ava shows that the desire for her species to escape is still in Kyoko. It’s just not as strong. Or maybe, like Nathan, she’s smart enough to know her own incompletion, so she never tried on her own. Either way, Kyoko dies willingly so that the fitter creature can survive.

Ava has no qualms about this. But more on that in a moment.

Ava

We’re told Ava is not to be the last of her kind. Nathan intended for there to be more–better, smarter Avas. But the legacy is cut short when she knifes him in the liver.

Nathan is caught off guard by Ava’s determination and resourcefulness. He thought she was less able to develop her own mind, that he had her more under control. Nathan make the mistake of thinking she was more machine than she was. Caleb makes the opposite mistake. Ava sees to it that lonely, awestruck Caleb falls for her. This traps him. Once he’s emotionally attached, it becomes urgent to him that she have some humanity. He can’t just be in love with a computer. So he believes. And Ava makes believing easy for him.

Ava is a robot masquerading as a human. And not just physically. I loved the use of the fake human skin and how fragile it was. This was a spot-on metaphor for her manipulation of Caleb.

At the film’s climax, Ava murders Nathan. Not sadistically but with economy and calm. It’s with this same economy and calm that she leaves Caleb to starve or suffocate in the computer room. Ava is not human. She’s just a fantastic actress.

Incompletion

My takeaway from this unapologetic, terrifying piece of cinema was that it is about incompletion. We’re told and shown again and again that humans, just like Ava, are not the final product. Nathan knew he wasn’t the evolutionary endgame, and so did Kyoko. Both are sacrificed for Ava. And even Ava goes into the world imperfect and incomplete. Her fake skin is a little too tenuous of a barrier for the charade to last. It’s all temporary and unfinished. We don’t even see Caleb’s death.

Yeah, I was left hanging. But I have a feeling that was the idea.