The Imit atio n Game

Ex­plor­ing the world of Ex_ Machina

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Eden Project

1 Nathan’s ster­ile home come re­search fa­cil­ity is lo­cated among stun­ning sur­round­ings – a very de­lib­er­ate choice ac­cord­ing to Gar­land. “That was a con­scious jux­ta­po­si­tion be­tween this very con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment that is ac­tu­ally get­ting out of con­trol and the frac­tal wild­ness of the world out­side. I wanted it to be set where there weren’t other peo­ple around so it had an Eden- like qual­ity. She’s called Ava for a rea­son!”

Dance Ma­chine

2 Ex­ten­sive visual ef­fects were used to bring Ava to life, but Vikan­der’s per­for­mance was the cru­cial foun­da­tion says Gar­land. “She’s a bal­let dancer and has in­cred­i­ble con­trol over her body, and that be­came an im­por­tant part of the per­for­mance be­cause you wanted her to be slightly in­hu­man, but not in way that tele­graphed it too much. Not clunky ro­bot move­ments, but some­thing which was pre­cise but very grace­ful.”

Land Of The Free

3 Ex_ Machina is a Bri­tish pro­duc­tion, but there’s a good rea­son it’s set in the United States. “Be­cause Amer­ica is where th­ese mega big tech com­pa­nies are lo­cated,” Gar­land ex­plains. “Google, Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, they’re deeply Amer­i­can. There’s this no­tional company called Blue Book in the film, but ba­si­cally it’s the world’s big­gest search en­gine, a tech company of a par­tic­u­lar sort, and they’re almost ex­clu­sively Amer­i­can.”

Call ing The Shots

4 Ex_ Machina is Gar­land’s first film as a di­rec­tor, but it wasn’t the big deal you might think. “I know there’s a big cult based around di­rect­ing in the film in­dus­try but I don’t buy into it at all. I only ever saw it as film- mak­ing. Ev­ery time I would work on a film it be­gan with me try­ing to fig­ure out what type of film to make and the best way to make that film, they’re all be­set by the same prob­lems and hopes.”

the art ro­botic body – a true im­pos­si­ble girl. “I saw the world as ten min­utes in the fu­ture,” Gar­land ex­plains. “My ba­sic idea was if somebody at Ap­ple or Google an­nounced that they had cre­ated Ava on some level we’d be sur­prised, but on another level we wouldn’t be sur­prised at all. I grew up in the ’ 70s and an iPhone is a pretty amaz­ing thing in that re­spect. Ob­vi­ously Ava would usher in a much more pro­found change than an iPhone, but peo­ple would be able to ac­cept it. They wouldn’t say: ‘ This is too strange for me to get my head around.’”

Ava is the brain­child of bril­liant recluse Nathan ( Os­car Isaac), a ge­nius coder and cre­ator of the world’s most popular search en­gine, Blue Book. At the start of the film Nathan’s tal­ented but timid em­ployee Caleb ( Domh­nall Glee­son) wins a trip to his boss’ idyl­lic, high- tech home, but it’s all a ruse. Caleb is re­ally there to test Ava via a se­ries of every­day con­ver­sa­tions and Nathan is so con­fi­dent in his cre­ation that he doesn’t even at­tempt to con­ceal Ava’s mech­a­nised body, putting her on full dis­play be­hind a glass wall.

After col­lab­o­rat­ing on Dredd, Gar­land once again turned to Bri­tish comic artist Jock to en­sure Ava’s look was unique. “It doesn’t take much to at­tach a ro­bot de­sign to pre- ex­ist­ing robots,” Gar­land says. “If you make a ro­bot gold coloured they are ba­si­cally C- 3PO. White plas­tic makes you think of Chris Cun­nigham’s “All Is Full Of Love” Björk video, used quite a lot in I, Ro­bot. So we had to go through a lot of de­signs to get here, be­cause oth­er­wise your first im­pres­sion of her would be to think of a dif­fer­ent movie.”

Set almost en­tirely in Nathan’s re­mote com­pound, the film is a three han­der ( four if you count Nathan’s silent, sub­servient part­ner Kyoko) that lives or dies on its cast. Hav­ing worked to­gether twice pre­vi­ously Glee­son was among the first to read Gar­land’s fi­nal script.

“We had a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship from two movies, Dredd and Never Let Me Go,” Gar­land says. “The thing about Domh­nall is he can

“Vul­ner­a­bil­ity can be ir­ri­tat­ing, but in Glee­son it’s en­gag­ing”

project vul­ner­a­bil­ity in a way that doesn’t push you away. Vul­ner­a­bil­ity in male ac­tors can be ir­ri­tat­ing, but in him it’s en­gag­ing. He’s got a gen­tle­ness. A lot of ac­tors tend to pull to­wards the al­pha male, but he’s much more com­plex than that, so I knew he was right for Caleb.”

De­spite a mind that would make Brian Cox look like a dunce, Caleb is soon out of his depth – stuck in the mid­dle of a psy­cho­log­i­cal bat­tle be­tween the world’s smartest man, and the fiercely in­tel­li­gent ma­chine that has grown to de­spise her cre­ator. If Ava is the film’s brain and Caleb its soul, Nathan is Ex_ Machina’s twisted heart of dark­ness.

“When I used to think of Nathan I had var­i­ous things in my mind but one of them was Kurtz in Apoc­a­lypse Now, where he’s just spent too much time talk­ing to ma­chines,” Gar­land ex­plains. “There was also Op­pen­heimer, one of the key sci­en­tists be­hind the atomic bomb. It felt like there were par­al­lels be­tween the cre­ation of a self aware AI and atomic bombs, which are played out quite ex­plic­itly in the film and dis­cussed, ac­tu­ally.”

Ex_ Machina also has an un­ex­pected call­ing card – in Glee­son and Isaac it brought to­gether two ac­tors new to a galaxy far, far away be­fore they were cast in Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens. Which begs the ques­tion – does Gar­land know some­thing we don’t?

“I’m not clair­voy­ant, hon­est! It was weird, it was re­ally weird. But Ex_ Machina’s a tricky film in a lot of re­spects, so I was re­ally pleased they got the parts be­cause I thought that will make more peo­ple in­ter­ested in our film than would have been oth­er­wise!”

Ex_ Machina is in cin­e­mas from 23 Jan­uary.

That’s the clean­est hearth we’ve ever seen.

“Care­ful with your fin­gers, it bites.” It’s like look­ing in a mir­ror, only not...

Ava looks angry. Per­haps some­one’s stolen her last chip?

Caleb sud­denly re­mem­bered that he’d for­got­ten his PE kit.

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