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ROBOLOVE

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by Maria Arlamovsky

grade: 8

Robolove, by Maria Arlamovsky, essentially stands out for its stylistic elegance, devoid of unnecessary frills, but with a camera that is able to focus, time after time, on every smallest but significant detail of the robots, without being afraid to take its time to show us everything, and ensuring that we too, in turn, can feel part of that future that is still so far away, but, in reality, much closer than we can imagine. At the Viennale 2019.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”

A man and a woman are sitting at a café table on a sunny summer day. After a few minutes, the two rent an electric car and go for a trip to the park, then sit on the grass, out of the sun. What is strange in all this? Practically nothing, except for the fact that the woman is actually a robot. This – and much more – happens in the exciting documentary Robolove, directed by Maria Arlamovsky and presented for the first time in Austria at theViennale 2019.

What Maria Arlamovsky – who usually observes a possible near future, as was the case in her 2016 documentary Future Baby – wanted to show us in this precious Robolove is a kind of possible dystopian reality, in which robots could replace humans in many tasks. But is it really so easy for such a situation to take hold? Undoubtedly, situations like this usually raise many concerns and even some more explicit criticisms.

During a long journey from Japan to the United States, Maria Arlamovsky showed us, thus, many different realities, all aimed at a single purpose, while having fun showing us the extent to which these robots are able to perform actions or communicate with humans themselves.

A film, Robolove, which totally refrains from judging any possible intentions, leaving the spectator total freedom in this regard, but which, at the same time, wants to show us with an almost theatrical staging a possible near future, as has often been portrayed in Hollywood films. And so, from time to time, we see robots interacting with humans, still moving in a limited way or – more interestingly – we see their actual construction. There is no caption or voice-over to comment on what we see before our eyes: Maria Arlamovsky lets only those involved speak, who simply explain briefly to the camera how they operate and for what purpose.

An exciting possibility, that of one day seeing so many robots living happily alongside humans, perfectly capable of living a life of their own and performing certain job functions. And there are even those who, imagining a not too distant future, have even spoken of a possible way of defeating death, finally achieving immortality.

A film, Robolove, which stands out essentially for its stylistic elegance, devoid of useless frills, but with a camera capable of concentrating, time after time, on every smallest but significant detail of the robots, without being afraid to take its time to show us everything, and allowing us, in turn, to feel part of that future that is still so far away, but, in reality, much closer than we can imagine. Maria Arlamovsky’s mise-en-scène, with its poetic and contemplative approach, seems to remind us a lot of oriental cinema (perfectly in line, then, with the country where this singular story begins) and which, overall, is a more than successful work that, on closer inspection, focuses on the very loneliness of the human being, less and less able to interact with others and incapable of establishing good relationships. In this regard, particularly significant is the image of the bust of the robot Bina, which, after being switched off, remains completely immobile, its head bent forward and its melancholic gaze lost in the void.

The robots shown in Robolove, however, are still in the experimental phase and, consequently, are still neither purchasable nor actually part of everyday life. The possibility, then, that they could take on a role of particular relevance within our society seems to us, today, still a long way off. But not far enough to prevent bitter debates on the matter from being opened. Is this true glory? Posterity the arduous verdict will declare.

Original title: Robolove
Directed by: Maria Arlamovsky
Country/year: Austria / 2019
Running time: 79’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Maria Arlamovsky
Cinematography: Sebastian Arlamovsky
Produced by: Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion GmbH

Info: the page of Robolove on the website of the Viennale; the page of Robolove on geyrhalterfilm.com