I highly recommend watching the short film, ZARI, all 20 minutes of which you can find here.
ZARI asks us to choose whether or not to believe in its robot, which is a rare thing in robot films. More often than not, the audience gets hit over the head with the point that a robot is intelligent.
First off, this wasn’t an action film. The fate of humanity is not at stake. The pace is slow. But I found that was part of what made it so interesting, and so real.
We are so used to C3P0’s, Chappies and Avas that we have developed a certain expectation for robots in film. We virtually take it for granted that they will have, or attain, human-like intelligence. As a result, it causes the robots to become like metal people, and they loose their “robot-ness”. They become humans in a different skin, and less interesting as a result.
In this film, however, things are different. ZARI is a film about a robot. A robot that could be only a few years away. It almost seems as if you could go out and buy one and take it home. In most of the film, the robot spends its time industriously doing household chores in a slow, mechanical kind of way. It doesn’t say much, and seems to occupy it’s own little world; the owners of the house don’t notice it any more than you would notice your dishwasher. Except when it occasionally knocks glass onto the floor.
They never notice, as we do, that some of the things it does are peculiar, and gradually give the robot a personality. The times, for example, it goes into the bathroom sometimes and seems to look in the mirror, or how it tries to learn how to say “good boy” to the dog, all on it’s own. The result is a film rich with emotion. It reminded me of Herbie in some ways, and of 2001 in others.
Even so, we are left with enough ambiguity to question whether or not the robot was really anything more than a machine, asking us to conduct our own personal Turing test. It allows us to choose to believe in the robot, which is a rare thing in robot films. More often than not, the audience gets hit over the head with the point that a robot is intelligent. It is refreshing to see a film that doesn’t focus so harshly on that particular idea.
The filming is beautiful, with a slight retro feel from the use of real film. ZARI is both a fascinating visual experience and an intriguing exercise in thinking about robots and the place they will occupy in our lives sometime soon.
Thanks for reading! What do you think?