'Ex Machina' Star Oscar Isaac & Director Alex Garland On The Strength In Sexuality & Gendered Consciousness
Hollywood leading man Oscar Isaac's latest film, Ex Machina , left audiences gasping at its twists and turns at South By Southwest Film Festival 2015. The film surrounds Nathan, a reclusive CEO of the world's largest, Google-esque internet company, and the 26-year-old programer he poaches to spend a week at his private mountain retreat. But when Caleb arrives, he realizes he was chosen to participate in testing the world's first true artificial intelligence (AI), an impressive computer system housed inside the robot body of a gorgeous woman named Ava. But sexy fembots aren't exactly something innovative.
Creating a non-human creature that's sexier than the most beautiful flesh-and-blood woman isn't anything new. We've seen it in depictions of women in video games, in Barbie dolls, Austin Powers' boobalicious fembots, and even the voice of Siri (similar to Spike Jonze's Her). Siri is female for a reason, and while the male gaze can't attack her non-physical being, it responds to her breath-y, lustful sounding tone. So how does a human, in this case, 26-year-old programmer Caleb, react to a robot — computer chips and metal coiling — that could be mistaken for a walking woman if her hollow inside was covered up? Does a man's innate primal desires hinder him from focusing on the task at hand?
As Ex Machina's writer and director Alex Garland says, the film probes questions of: "Where does gender reside? Is it in the mind? Is there such a thing as a male mind and a female mind? Is that a reasonable thing to say? If it is in the mind, then Ava actually could have a gender. But also, if it is true, what would the differences be? What would a male consciousness have different than a female consciousness? What happens when a male consciousness is acting like a female consciousness? It falls apart as an idea," he says.
"The converse idea is, the mind doesn't have a gender, it's actually genderless," he continues."And the external form is what denotes gender. And by those terms, Ava is actually female, because she has a consciousness — as a male or female could have — but the outside form denotes gender. But this gets confused, potentially, by her behavior, which is genderless. She is just acting as she has to act in order to do what she needs to do which is to get out of a glass box."
When Caleb and Ava interact, their seemingly human connection is undeniable. "Sexuality is a thing that can be used as a tool or a weapon or whatever it needs to be used as," Oscar Isaac says. "It's not necessarily that you're a slave to it."
But aside from the sexual aspects, there is one underlying message the film promotes: We never really know what's going on in someone else's mind — AI or otherwise. "It's as simple as that," Garland says. "I don't feel a need to specify what exactly is going on in Ava's mind. I want to specify: Does she have a mind? That's the key question. It's not what is actually motivating her."
He concludes: "I haven't been clear on the position the film is taking with this stuff, but that's also deliberate. This is supposed to be a movie about ideas. It's there to provoke a conversation."
See the thought-provoking Ex Machina in theaters Friday, April 10. Watch the trailer below: