There’s no worse way to start your day than with a broken sex robot, and that very dilemma is how director Sofian Khan‘s short, DOPPELBÄNGER, introduces us to its protagonist, George (Gibson Frazier). Set in a near-future where people are assisted in their homes by cyborgs that are fashioned in their own image, DOPPELBÄNGER opens with George making “intimate use” of someone else’s robot.
To earn extra money, Cecilia (Annapurna Sriram) is pimping out her own doppelgänger, to George, whom she’s never met. When her robot breaks, she arrives to help George repair it. As an ex-coder who lost her job when companies started using AI instead, she knows a thing or two about the way the doppelgängers work. She explains that they’re “ethically hardwired”, meaning they’re coded with something similar to the little white lies we as humans tell ourselves to get through life. When they take the broken doppelgänger outside and to Cecilia’s car, George’s personal robot becomes suspicious and makes moves to report his master.
This is a beautifully shot little piece of film. It’s presented in black and white, with the exception of the titles, and the internal, meditative space where the doppelgängers retreat to when they’re plugged into the system. The aesthetic builds a believable futuristic look, without going over the top.
What we get to know about the characters and the world they inhabit piqued my interest, and I actually found myself a bit deflated when it ended. It doesn’t feel like we’re given a complete story here, and I’m not sure if that’s criticism or praise since I was left wanting more. There’s enough meat in the foundations of the story to expand further. It would make a great episode of Black Mirror or even a feature in its own right.
But as it is, DOPPELBÄNGER is an intriguing snippet of futuristic vision, and Sofian Khan is a director to watch.
DOPPELBÄNGER had its international premiere at the digital edition of Fantasia International Film Festival on August 25, 2020.