How can a young woman today find true love in a time of triumphant individualism and dominant algorithms? Freely inspired by a short story by Emma Braslavsky, the German filmmaker Maria Schrader (along with her co-screenwriter Jan Schomburg) imagines the experimental encounter between Alma, a linguist, and Tom, a human-like, programmed to seduce her. Far from the classic scenarios of science fiction movies, where robots produced by human intelligence turn against their creators, “I’m your man”, with unexpected twists, twists marked by humor or melancholy, goes from the romantic comedy to the fable of unimaginable extensions. In addition to the stalemate of an affair between the demanding researcher and the beautiful android kid, the unsettling experience serves as an indicator of the intimate wounds of a complex woman who has been haunted since childhood by the recurring dream of a liberating happiness.
Scientific test and the temptation to happiness
Strange bet for Alma (Maren Eggert, subtle play with infinite nuances), linguistically specialized in interpreting Sumerian cuneiform inscriptions at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. In return for funding her research by a company specializing in artificial intelligence, she agrees to welcome a humanoid robot into her home for three weeks who is able to meet her needs and fulfill her desires. Sacred tour de force, especially since our heroine in appearance is more characterized by her spirit of seriousness than by her desire for an ideal partner.
After a first one-on-one dinner at the restaurant, which turns into a failure (the poorly programmed ‘robot’ reacts too mechanically and must be filtered out quickly), the thought crosses us that it is a staging or a fantasy so much the unreal atmosphere and the muted decor of red hangings make one think of a dysfunctional theater set!
Once Tom (Dan Stevens, fine interpreter of a creature with confusing mechanics) is first restored and better suited to his future partner’s presumed hopes, he arrives at Alma and takes initiatives as if he is ahead of unspoken wishes. In the large, clean apartment, he clears and tidies up at breakneck speed, he tries his hand at humor and relaxation … Without laughing, he compares the eyes of beauty to ‘two alpine lakes’, in which he’ wants to drown ”. There is no doubt that for the volunteer, overwhelmed by the conformity of his interlocutor (who, by the way, naturally asks if they should both sleep in the same bed), the experience of cohabitation risks being cut off.
Faced with such a discrepancy, Tom (whose high artificial intelligence shows an unexpected plasticity) no longer seeks to seduce Alma. And this change generates other paradoxes. He denies her while under the influence of alcohol she shows a need for intercourse. Even more, he discovers a study from a scientific journal that greatly questions the text that Alma and his colleagues were publishing.
Limits of artificial intelligence, the infinite mystery of the human soul
Alma and Tom actually continue the experiments in other forms. During an escape in the middle of nature, they get closer, and even go so far as to imagine a common past, in accordance with the ‘donor’s’ incentive. The sketch of an affair and a night of love gives the illusion of happiness.
Alma, flanked by Tom, encounters her former buddy, again in a relationship with a young woman, pregnant as for her (while Alma at the time of this previous relationship was unable to get through with her pregnancy). Alma decides to stop the test with Tom. But from open disagreement to unusual reunions, Alma, weakened by this revealing experience, has much more access to herself. Until he found (but are we quite sure?) Tom, the strange humanoid, on stage for his first teenage love in Denmark.
However, the final shots, full of grace, melancholy and mystery, lift a veil over Alma’s secret wounds. Through the evocation of the presence of a boy, her lover every time, who lies next to her every time – a presence that disappears every time she opens her eyes – the heroine with extreme sensitivity and with a fertile imagination can be fallen in love with a ‘man’ who does not exist, in harmony with her deep desires, in opposition to the world order and the dictate of artificial intelligence. A fleeting vision in the service of a staging, strange and penetrating, creating a mental universe close to a David Lynch or an Alfred Hitchcock, that of “Vertigo”. Thus we are led to revise our vision of “I am your husband,” as if fiction as a whole became the obvious expression of the inexhaustible dream of liberating a woman who is in love with the absolute. It is also a fine definition of cinema.
“I am your husband”, film by Maria Schrader – premiere June 22, 2022
Interpretation award to Maren Eggert, Berlin Festival 2021