The story of humans versus androids seems almost cliché at this point, a fear that only grows as technological capabilities increase and the concept of robots in the home slowly becomes less new and alien to everyday consumers. . The virtual assistant market is predicted to grow from $2.2 billion in 2018 to $11.3 billion in 2024. Technology has become a crutch for mankind. Human reliance on technology has risen sharply over the past decade. This creates a system where if technology were removed, humans would not be able to live effectively.
The recent release of Steven Soderbergh Kimi discusses the potential impacts of technology’s invasion of privacy and corporate greed, but Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the mastermind behind the famous Amelie, continued with his vision of a futuristic world where machines want to be understood. Netflix’s release of big bug is the film that resulted from this concept. It subverts movie expectations with similar storylines and concepts, creating a unique visual experience that is also thought-provoking.
A world of androids and humans
In the world of big bug, the year is 2045, and most humans have delegated their daily tasks to androids. These androids can speak, sense emotion with a single glance, determine a human’s intent, and have increased speed and power. The French suburb now features an assortment of pastel-colored cookie-cutter homes, perfectly manicured lawns, greenhouses inside living rooms, and TVs that look like holograms. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? But all good things come and go when a traffic jam signals the start of an android revolution.
A group of androids, who dubbed themselves the Yonyx (all played by François Levental), were previously featured through a TV show playing in the background of the group’s chatter. The opening scene of big bug really sets the stage for what’s to come: the TV show shows androids guarding humans as literal pets. Humans walk like dogs, carry tails, bark and growl one after another on the street. Almost immediately, a power dynamic was set up over ownership and dominance, and that’s the Yonyx’s overarching goal.
They seek to regain control of the humans who previously possessed them, and one of the Yonyx even proves capable of gaining the right boost to become a politician. These Yonyx seem untrustworthy. They have large unnatural smiles, head coverings that curl around the sides of their heads, and a penchant for torturing humans. They emerge as an external threat to the bubble in which humans live. This concept expands further with development as the main cast of characters are locked in a house by their androids as the Yonyx create chaos.
An unlikely group of people are gathered
big bugThe human cast of characters is made up of everyone moviegoers have ever seen. Alice (Elsa Zylberstein) is the divorced housewife whose film largely inhabits the house. Max (Stéphane de Groodt) and his son (Hélie Thonnat) are the first visitors to Alice’s humble home, and Max is a man on a mission. He wants Alice and won’t stop chasing her. When her ex-husband (Youssef Hadji) shows up with his new girlfriend (Claire Chust), tension mounts as his jealousy slowly begins to blossom with every passing remark. Françoise (Isabelle Nanty), a neighbor with several clones of her beloved dog, shows up and makes herself comfortable before chaos ensues. Finally, Alice’s teenage daughter, Nina (Marysole Fertard), returns.
Each of the characters stands out in unique ways, inducing multiple personality clashes. As the robots try to figure out what it means to have human emotions by studying their owners and reading books, they experience first-hand the cycle of trapped humans through basic emotions. Lust is a strong theme throughout the film, as many moments are foiled by androids who come in for a joke when the moment seems right. Outdoor advertisements, which come straight to the window and interact with humans, bring both endless fascination and annoyance.
But inside, Alice’s house reminds the viewer of the familiar objects of this advanced world: rows of bookcases filled with old books, calligraphy done with a real fountain pen, and a Smeg fridge. Even Alice herself offers a vague sense of nostalgia in the way she dresses: her outfit is reminiscent of a 1950s or 1960s housewife, especially when juxtaposed with her android servant Monique.
Monique’s attire is everything you would expect from a futuristic robot. Her blue-striped blunt bob defines her as something not human, as well as her silver maid costume that vaguely resembles standard sci-fi movie attire. She immediately stands out as something inhuman through her appearance.
Robots just want to be human
The other robots in the house are Einstein, a talking head made by Alice’s ex-husband, Tom, a reputedly backward and old-fashioned robot, and Nestor, the artificial intelligence behind the house. As the Yonyx begin their revolt, these androids remember the kindness Alice showed them, even though she never saw them as anything other than household appliances. It’s this driving emotion for the robots that allows them to break free and choose their destiny as the Yonyx threat draws near.
An underlying theme of the film is the rejection of anything that makes humans human. Alice and her daughter Nina are attached to a world that once existed due to their attachment to books and computers, although they may not have many memories of what the world was like. A simple meal is cooked through a series of machines, and a table cannot be moved without the help of artificial intelligence.
For characters like Françoise, even intimacy is with a robot. This is perhaps the heart of the film: while the Yonyx reject all that is humanistic and humane, the true mortals who occupy this land have also truly forgotten what it means to be human. But the movie waits for the moment when the emergency lights go off and the Yonyx shows up to inflict terror on the distraught occupants and robots. There is no distinction between humans and robots with their forced punishment.
It is a normalization of these events, however, that makes big bug a captivating film apart from the main scenario. The year is 2045 and clues to the contemporary world we live in are evident: books and Macbook computers. A TV show, where the whole plot is an android torturing humans, comes along, and there’s a clear lack of concern from those in the house. It is as if it were a normal event, that they are desensitized to such events occurring.
Even Alice and Nina, who feel this romantic nostalgia through cultural artifacts from the distant past, would likely prove unable to survive in a world without their robotic assistants. What makes this theme most evident throughout the film is the introduction of the robots trying to learn how to become human. At the end of the film, they stand, smile and proudly say, “We are human.
This suggests that humanism is learned through the study of emotion and empathy, which is the exact opposite observed by humans at the start of the film. Where have humans strayed big bug? On top of that, there are smaller topics on capitalism, tech upgrades, and community.
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A shifted vision of the future
big bug injects humorous moments here and there, adding offbeat commentary that allows the film to be more of a satire than a doomsday scenario. In one scene, Alice’s teenage daughter plays rock, paper, and scissors with one of the robots in her room. The other teenager, the son of the man who romantically pursues Alice, walks in and comments on how she has old computer systems. These computer systems date from the early 2000s.
It took Jeunet four years to find a home for his screenplay until Netflix picked it up, allowing the film a platform on the streaming giant. His film defies all expectations. He creates a quirky and fun film offering colorful visuals to captivate and drive his story forward. As its characters run around trying to have sex with each other and fight over how they should get out of the house, there’s a deeper complexity to it all. However, the humans are the most grueling part of the film.
While it may come across as an odd and artistic film, its weakness lies in the lack of character development. The only ones who mark a change in their emotional journeys are the robots themselves. Perhaps that’s the point of the film, with commentary about quarantining inside their home as the world outside slowly begins to crumble.
Jorge Garcia plays Floop, Dr. Wolfgang’s assistant and Herman’s best friend, in Rob Zombie’s new adaptation of The Munsters.
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