Soft Materials (2004), directed by Daria Martin, takes place in an Artificial Intelligence Lab at Munich University. The film is based upon a controlled scientific experiment where robots learn to function solely from the movement of their human subjects, played by Ben Ash and Nina Fog. Throughout the film, this increasingly dependent and intimate connection between human and robot slowly becomes animalistic and erotic.
The uneasy, lurking soundtrack sequence followed by the staggered outof- focus camera angles allow us to visualize the fragmented, vulnerable state of the experiment occurring within such an isolated, controlled space.
Between the robots, or the man and woman, the role of protagonists in Soft Materials is questionable — We aren’t quite sure who is in control of whom, as this relationship is closely reciprocated and both uniformed yet disparate — far from any dimension to our understanding.
The human subjects played by Ben Ash and Nina Fog are always shown seen nude along with the robots who also appear mechanically raw and exposed. This symbolizes the vulnerability and intimacy generated between human and robot; the subject’s demeanour of fragility and curiosity towards the robot creates a sense of eroticism within their synchronous relationship.
Daria Martin re-visits the question of ‘Man Vs. Machine’ in Soft Materials with artistic camera angles and caricature, which symbolizes the fragmented and animalistic movements that occurs within an isolated and controlled experimental setting. We must continue to think about the power of artifice derived in this pre-determined experiment and relate it to the relationship between humans and modern technology.
10 minutes 30 seconds
Text by Ellen Grace