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Daft Punk

Jurgis Karpus
posted 8 October 2007

It is always intriguing when a well-known musician sets out to extend his or her contribution to the world of film from short music videos or musical scores to a full-length feature film. This time the debutants are Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, who are better known as the world famous electro-house music superstars Daft Punk?

Having greatly enjoyed the French duo’s ground shaking audio-visual performance in London earlier this summer, when the two musicians transformed the vast open space of Hyde Park into a mighty and joyful night clubbing experience for thousands of electronic music lovers and partygoers, I was eagerly awaiting to see how the pair would project their highly energetic musical experience onto the big screen.

The band’s debut film bears the same name as the duo’s currently ongoing worldwide tour of concerts, where the musicians appear in cosmic robot-like outfits while playing (among others) their compositions ‘Technologic’, ‘Robot Rock’ and ‘Steam Machine’. The movie tells the story of two humanoid robots’ perilous attempt to become different and somewhat special, as an escape from the mundane everyday robotic life of the society they live in.

At the beginning of the film two heroes (the main characters of the film are called hero robot #1 and hero robot #2) arrive in a black Ferrari at a small desert town peopled by robots like them. They attempt to make themselves different by adopting human likenesses with the help of liquid latex poured over their robot heads and artistically shaped into masks resembling human faces, at a high-tech laboratory. Being out of ordinary, however, is not easy, and attempts to deviate from societal customs and norms are often perceived unfavourably and even condemned by the society as a whole. It is no different in Daft Punk’s robot world, especially when the heroes’ masks start to melt away in the hot desert sun, and the inhabitants of the town turn against them, angered by the trick they’ve been drawn into.

Daft Punk’s fictional robots strongly resemble real human beings in many ways - they wear human clothing, represent alternating genders and vary in age. But mostly the similarity is in the human-like emotions in the speechless interactions between the two main characters of the film. These are amplified by long camera shots of their robot helmets gazing at each other while radiating with a strong sense of happiness, sadness, and always with what seems to be a mutual understanding and support for each other throughout the film. Perhaps in this way the film draws a parallel to the real world in which a person is striving towards finding out what it is that makes him or her human and not a mere machine in its routine-like robotic existence – a struggle that is perhaps symbolically represented by the heroes’ endless journey through a desert (which takes up a large part of the film).

What comes as a surprise is the style in which the film is made. It is not accompanied by house music beats and funky bass lines (in fact it contains not a single musical piece by Daft Punk), it has no dialogue, contains little action and its pace is very slow, comprising long camera shots of the same scenes repeated from varying angles and camera positions. The film somewhat resembles an old science fiction movie and in places has a David Lynch-like mystical feel.

The film is left wide open for viewer’s own interpretation and is not particularly easy to watch. It will disappoint someone who is looking for an action sci-fi movie with robot fights and explosive special effects, but if you are patient enough, I believe you will find this film interesting in many ways. It is visually beautiful and it will keep you thinking and coming back to the main characters of the film in your mind for hours (or perhaps even weeks). Ideal for solitary viewing on a rainy afternoon.


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