Stanley, meet Steven

A.I. Artificial Intelligence – 2001 – dir. Steven Spielberg

★★★★/★★★★

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It was very odd watching this film for the first time soon after having first watched Munich. The last scene of that film is a haunting visual of the twin towers and the New York City skyline. Midway through this film, we come across a Manhattan that has sunk beneath the sea and the Twin Towers, still stand deserted among other tall buildings. Of course nothing was meant by this presentation specifically, but it is certainly interesting to think about the two haunting images in retrospect and juxtaposition. Two films about despair, one about violence and the other about rot, both trying to be hopeful in the face of cynicism.

David (Haley Joel Osment) is a Mecha: as opposed to his Orga creators and his Orga parents. David is a mechanical boy and he is so capable of love for his parents that when his parents’ “real” son comes home from the hospital, his only dream could ever want was to be a real son too. David dreams and desires and loves like a real boy, but all he wants is for the people he loves (specifically his mother) to love him more. If this sounds like a tragic sci-fi version of Pinocchio, that would be because it is exactly that.

A.I. was a dream child of Stanley Kubrick for nearly two decades before his death, and Steven Spielberg had been a producer since the early stages. There was a time when Kubrick thought the film was more suited to Spielberg’s direction but it never became his film until Kubrick’s death in 1999. And even as Spielberg went into production on the film he wanted to stay true to this being one of Kubrick’s stories.

Only Stanley Kubrick could have this take on Pinocchio and only Steven Spielberg could make it the emotional and traumatic cinematic experience that it is. But that unfortunately puts A.I. on a list of films that it may not be great to be on. Along with Steve McQueen’s Shame, and P.T Anderson’s Boogie Nights, I doubt that I would ever watch A.I. again by choice. It’s not an entertaining film and it’s not a film that you watch to enjoy. It is traumatic to watch and the skill behind the direction is such that you recognize its greatness despite being an unpleasant experience.

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