If you thought watching a movie about robots was fun, how about watching people talk about robots, eh?
For this panel, Ex Machina‘s director/writer (Alex Garland), cinematographer (Rob Hardy), composers (Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury), and one of it’s stars (Oscar Isaac) got together to talk artificial intelligence, consciousness, and chess. I’ll give you a little (paraphrased) recap of the conversation, while leaving out the parts that spoil the film because I want everyone to see this movie knowing as little about it as possible.
They started things off with a question: Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future of artificial intelligence.
Salisbury was pessimistic, but more because of faceless tech giants than A.I. run amok.
Isaac was also pessimistic, because as we advance we lose control and gadgets take over our lives.
Hardy was more optimistic because the unknown excites him, and it all depends on how the A.I. is used.
Garland said he was optimistic about the future of machines, but pessimistic about the future of people.
Barrow was optimistic, and said he would like for things be like they were in Wall-E (I assume he means the cupcakes in a cup).
Religion was brought up, as Isaac’s character Nathan is compared to God at one point because he might have made an A.I.
Garland said that was meant as a joke. The act of creation is humanlike, not godlike.
It’s mentioned that humans don’t make new species.
Isaac argued, “look at what we did to dogs.”
The visual effects in the film were brought, specifically the ones used to create the robot, Ava.
Hardy praised the FX team for letting them shoot however they wanted to.
Isaac complimented the effects for not being shoved in your face. They were shot in a way so that you often only caught them out of the corner of your eye.
The music was also praised, specifically the piece that plays when the audience is introduced to Ava.
Salsbury said the music was intentionally calm and childlike with no edge to it in that scene, so as to get the audience to like Ava.
Isaac compared the thumps to a heartbeat.
Barrow mentioned the harder edged noises were used in the more intense scenes, and the music becomes multilayered, like the film.
They talked about consciousness and how to define it – a huge theme in the film – but this is where it got very spoilery, so I’ll keep it short.
Garland posed the question: How do you know anyone has a conscious? How would you prove it? (This has a lot to do with Ava).
They refocused onto A.I. – specifically Ava’s.
Garland stated the point of the movie: we (the audience) make assumptions about what an A.I. is thinking, when in fact she (Ava) is trying to fool everyone (the audience and the other characters). And, we can’t really know why Ava does anything she does in the movie (wish I could tell you what she does) because we all have prejudices.
They talked about Nathan and how Isaac prepared for the role.
He said read about all the concepts Nathan talks about in the film (and he talks about a lot) so the words would come more naturally to him. He also read about chess player Bobby Fischer, and director Stanley Kubrick – who he called “dark geniuses.”
Garland commented that Nathan is a very damaged man (I hand’t thought about that when I watched Ex Machina, but looking back I can definitely see that; he seemed so sad too).
Finally, the panelists were asked, considering all the questions posed in the film, what were the biggest unanswered questions for them.
Salisbury said there are absolutely no answers; so all the questions.
Isaac put in that the best art is expressive rather than communicative – which is what this film was.
Hardy agreed, and said he has more questions every time he watches Ex Machina.
Garland said the film is a love letter to Ava; the whole film – the music, the shots, etc. He also wonders why people think the ending is sad? (Not saying anything!)
Barrow said he has no questions. He’s in a band. He hits things for a living (his words, not mine).