If you haven’t seen “Ex Machina” yet, then you’re not doing 2015 right. This dazzling, morosely funny power play between a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein, his creation and the unwitting pawn in the story’s sinister game of chess is the one to beat as far as films released so far this year. Directed by screenwriter/novelist Alex Garland —who has explored similar thematic material in pictures like Mark Romanek’s “Never Let Me Go”— owes a degree of its success to its cinematic forebears like David Cronenberg, and specifically the film’s spartan, three-character narrative, claustrophobic air of dread and sexual menace bring to mind the early pictures of Roman Polanski.
And yet “Ex Machina” is a true original, if for nothing else due to giving us the year’s most unforgettable dance sequence featuring Oscar Isaac. Garland’s film works simultaneously as a crackerjack genre exercise, an alluringly foreboding techno-thriller and also as an eerily prescient treatise on gender relations and the way technology shapes our day-to-day lives in the 21st century. Released by A24 and Garland’s debut as a director, the film is a genuinely rousing good time at the movies that also happens to be packed to the gills with enough provocative ideas for an entire semester’s worth of thesis papers.
Studio 360 has just released a revealing 33-minute talk with Garland, wherein he discusses the film’s startlingly realistic special effects, the painstaking work that went into creation of the film’s AI-enhanced female specimen Ava and how he and his VFX team managed to create an immersive and believable world on a relatively small budget.
In the talk, Garland comes across as a droll, affable fellow who’s unpretentious but clearly well-read and passionate about the projects he chooses, name-dropping sources as varied and esoteric as “Pygmalion” and “The Terminator.” Interestingly, Garland says that his film “… does not invite [audience members] to be on the side of the humans,” and he addresses the importance of consciousness in the film’s narrative and whether or not this idea itself is gender-specific.
“I began to get quite interested in the idea of where gender resides. Is it something that exists in the mind? In which case, is there a such thing as a male consciousness and a female consciousness?” Garland asks.
Garland also mentions that even the slightest smattering of gold on Ava’s half-human frame on set inadvertently drew connotations to C-3PO. We’re certainly glad they managed to avoid that pitfall.
“Ex Machina” is currently playing in wide release courtesy of A24. Listen to the entirety of Garland’s fantastic interview below.