Director: Thomas Bangalter, Guy Manuel De Homem-Christo
Screenplay: Thomas Bangalter, Guy Manuel De Homem-Christo, Cédric Hervet, Paul Hahn
French techno duo Daft Punk have long since maintained that they are not in fact human beings making deep groove house music and performing elaborate live shows, but robots. Silly and a bit gimmicky perhaps, but whether robot or human, when Daft Punk’s music begins, no one really cares either way because everyone’s far too busy shaking their asses.
The truth is, Daft Punk are not robots (sorry to piss on your strawberries, kids), but two exceptionally talented and creative musicians by the names of Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. Together they decided to take the whole We-are-robots thing yet another step further by writing and directing a 74-minute, dialogue-free film about two automatons on a quest to become human.
For the most part, reviews and opinions of Electroma often seem to reiterate the words “pretentious” and “bullshit” – which are also very often put together for a more comprehensive analysis of “pretentious bullshit”. That’s not to say however, that such an analysis is in fact fair or for that matter, accurate. Yes, Electroma is exceptionally long for what is essentially (and barely) a single concept film and yes, Electroma could have achieved everything it achieves in 20 minutes or less instead of 74; and yes it is more than a little surprising that it took four writers to write a film that has no real story to speak of. BUT! De Homem-Christo and Bangalter should be commended for a few things:
First of all, kudos for not using any Daft Punk music in the film’s soundtrack. This is a potentially contentious point as I’m sure many of the Daft Punk fans who watched this film and subsequently complained about it were expecting a concert video of sorts. As much as I love Daft Punk’s music, it wouldn’t have fit in with the feel or context of the film. In fact, it would have taken away from what little substance there is to Electroma, transforming the entire production instead into little more than a 74-minute music video.
There are very few plot points in this film and the build up to these relatively feeble points are long, drawn out affairs. Still these build ups do manage to create the intended tension, despite the payoffs being rather slim pickings. That tension slowly translates into a sort of creepy sympathy for these two robots in their leather sequined Daft Punk jackets, who want so badly to be human. I have to honestly say that I felt sorry for them, even though I was repeatedly hit over the head with the notion that I should feel precisely that. Note to aspiring filmmakers: just because you omit dialogue from your film doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to avoid being obvious with the themes and emotions you’re intending to get across.
And that is exactly what hurt Electroma: had the length been cut in half, it all wouldn’t have seemed so obvious. After 30 minutes of sulky robots, we get it. Loud and clear. Je comprend tout. I can’t deny that I did like some of the particularly lengthy scenes like the opening, where the two robots drive their car through the desert to a droning soundtrack. Unfortunately, that kind of imagery isn’t for everyone and will often elicit cries of “pretentious bullshit”. For me, Electroma wasn’t so much about being pretentious as it was about not knowing how much is too much. De Homem-Christo and Bangalter certainly know where that line lies with regards to their music; maybe if there are to be any further attempts at cinema they’ll better utilize that knowledge.