The two films today play on the premise on how well do you really know the person you’re spending your life with? In the witty German film, I’m Your Man, it touches on AI and the possible relationships of the near future, while in the psychological Horror film The Night House, it’s what lurks in the shadows.
I’m Your Man (Video on demand) - Here’s an extremely witty and textured German film that deals with AI, androids, and relationships of the near-future. It first showed in the Berlin Festival, where it copped an acting award for lead female star, Maren Eggert. Since then, it’s made the rounds, winding up as a popular film in Toronto. It’s directed by Maria Schrader, who won an Emmy for her work on Unorthodox. So if you’re not ‘allergic’ to subtitles, I’d recommend you seek this film out, as it’s smart, funny, entertaining, and ultimately, has something to say about technology and humanism - things you don’t often see in one film. It also stars Dan Stevens as the android, and it’s possibly his best work post-Downton Abbey - while others will know him for his work in the live action Beauty & the Beast. Yes, he portrayed the Beast.
Eggert plays an archaeologist, an intelligent woman who’s asked to beta test a new android that’s been developed to be partner/companion to women who are lonely, or don’t have the time or patience to play the dating game, or resort to Tinder. The first scene in a campy nightclub puts us into the mood of what to expect, and it’s brilliant.
Rather than evolve into a charming, but predictable rom-com between live woman, and living robot, the film thankfully aims for more and attempts to seriously dissect what lies at the core of a relationship. It questions where technology is taking us and the price we may be paying for the advancements and convenience. What I appreciated in the film is the wry humor, and how it was ready to take us on a road less expected, or easy to anticipate.
The Night House (video on demand) - David Bruckner of The Signal and V/H/S has Rebecca Hall play the central role of Beth in this haunted house mystery, that’s as much psychological drama dealing with despair and depression. The film opens with Beth returning home, and we’re informed that husband Owen took his own life, rowing out to the lake in front of their home, and shooting himself. A brittle woman, prone to depression and anxiety, Beth works as a teacher, and it’s remarked that if anyone had ended up taking their life, it would more likely have been Beth, rather than Owen. What follows for much of the film are a series of revelations that add mystery and potent signals of what could have been behind Owen’s suicide.
Atmospheric and chilling, some of these reveals involve how Owen had architectural plans for a doppelgänger house, that he had a secret life that involved long walks in the woods late at night, and even a relationship with another woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Beth. You might think you know where all this is leading to - and for much of the film, Bruckner does a great job of tightening the screws. He also makes use of an unusually loud soundscape to help bring about the jump scares one expects in films of this genre. If anything, it’s the last 1/4 of the film, and the resolution that some may question or feel short-changed by. There are a lot of open-ended things left hanging, but I would think this is done on purpose.