Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Sexuality is a particularly ambitious topic for an AI first-timer but the effect is rather charming."

Artificial Intelligences have been turning up as subjects in cinema for decades now and they're increasingly coming to be accepted as a part of everybody's future thanks to films like Robot And Frank and Her pushing the boundaries of what most people expect from science fiction. Isn't it time, then, that they got to do more behind the camera? Sunspring is the first film ever written by an AI (the self-named Benjamin) and it's an intriguing outsider's look at the human condition.

The film opens with an introduction by Benjamin's helpers, who explain how it read a number of scripts submitted to a science fiction screenplay competition before developing its own. This immediately introduces another layer of artistic complexity - Benjamin hasn't seen the likes of Solaris, Soylent Green or Blade Runner but echoes of each of them can be found here, refracted through the work of others. The cannibalistic nature of the genre has reached the point where even machines are regurgitating the new flesh. Nevertheless, there is something fresh about Benjamin's efforts, perhaps because it has no way of interpreting where emotional weight might lie. The actors do some great work here in bringing a sense of emotional coherence to a script that is fascinatingly flat. The effect resembles reinterpreted cut-up technique. Benjamin really needs to see Naked Lunch.

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Despite its strange meandering and sometime absurdism, Benjamin's script is superior to many found at the discount end of the genre and allegedly written by humans. It deals with relationship breakdown and conflicting desires in an uncertain future. Sexuality is a particularly ambitious topic for an AI first-timer but the effect is rather charming. The set design and costuming gives the film a Seventies character that suits the story. Although it was shot in just one day, it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into bringing Benjamin's vision to life, as well as into translating it for what is likely to be a predominantly human audience.

This surprisingly watchable short is destined to become all the more intriguing with the passing of time. Its importance is considerable but, importantly, it's also appealing in its own right, even if our new AI overlords still have quite a lot to learn.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2016
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Relationships break down in a dystopian future in this, the first film ever written by an AI.

Director: Oscar Sharp

Writer: Benjamin

Starring: Thomas Middleditch, Humphrey Ker, Elisabeth Gray

Year: 2016

Runtime: 9 minutes

Country: US


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