Synopsis: An odyssey of two robots who journey across a mythic American landscape of haunting, surreal beauty on a quest to become human. This silent feature-length film made its international debut at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. With its breathtaking cinematography, innovative filming techniques, and above all, its underlying search for humanity within a dystopian environment, Daft Punk have delivered a film that finds a common thread with their previous work, while exploring new horizons as directors. These dance music heroes have sold over three million records in the US.
Well, here’s an odd duck that flew under pretty much everyone’s radar: it’s a film that was written and directed by France’s electronic music duo Daft Punk.
For those who don’t know them, they are legendary. While they may not have released that much music, their contributions have reshaped the face of electronic music which, in turn, has massively influenced pop culture. Daft Punk have, by this point, fully infiltrated pop culture, even if they’re still relegated to the fringe. Having said this, they’re breaking through, as evidenced by the fact that they are the composers of the music for Disney’s upcoming movie ‘Tron: Legacy’.
But Daft Punk was always an odd duck from the onset, so it’s hardly surprising that they remain unknown to the general public. Not only were they relatively reclusive, but they did interviews wearing robot costumes, even going so far as to doing their concerts in this gear. Their videos, which are readily available on Youtube, speak to the unique qualities of this band, having collaborated with some of the most creative and original directors around.
Now budding filmmakers themselves, Daft Punk decided to write up a story about -get this- two robots who decide that they want to be human (it so happens that one of their albums is called ‘Human After All’). They go to a clinic for a procedure that provides them with a semblance of humanity, a caricature of what we’d think is human. Except that this procedure can only be temporary, as the outside elements take their toll on their appearance.
The impact of this harsh reality versus their greatest dream has repercussions that only Daft Punk could imagine
The film is unusual in many ways:
For starters, it is an entirely dialogue-less film – even though there is sound (ambient, music, …etc). These robots live in a world of robots, so no one speaks. It is even more so strange in that these two robots want to look human when there are no human beings around (perhaps this is an echo of the band’s own robot persona in a human world?)
As well, one might expect this film to be an obvious vehicle for the band’s music. Instead, they eschewed this option and decided to get music from other sources – when there is music, that is. In a pop world rife with vanity projects, this is a very rare choice indeed. And it makes this film a “Daft Punk movie” strictly by virtue of its association with them and its theme – not by their actual appearance in it physically or musically.
The film depends solidly on visuals to create an atmosphere and takes its sweet time to move things along. It was rather perfect for the project: it’s an amusing, sparse story that could have been told in 5 mins, but its lackadaisical nature seems completely in keeping with the characters.
Whereas this slow pace worked for Kubrick in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, it doesn’t work as well for Daft Punk. Let’s face it: they are not Kubrick. Furthermore, even if they were, they are very new to this filmmaking business and even Kubrick’s first film was apparently bad enough that he has tried to have all copies of it destroyed. In particular, the editing in ‘Electroma’ isn’t entirely seamless. But it’s alright for a first film.
So, perhaps this was a little ambitious for a first time.
Still, as a film, it is solid enough and it is entertaining. It has a unique style, an original storyline, it captures the characters ably, and resolves it all in a satisfying way. I can’t fault them for trying, and I would definitely like to see another film of theirs. There are plenty of far worse films by first-time filmmakers – or even seasoned veterans.
‘Electroma’ was well worth the 75 mins and I will no doubt see it again. And again.