Sundance 2012: 'Meaning of Robots' is Funny and Strangely Charming
by Ethan Anderton
January 20, 2012
Just last week we highlighted the trailer for a documentary short that would normally stay off our radar at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival as our focus lies solely on feature length films. However, when a sneak peek at Meaning of Robots fell into my lap, I fully intended to go out of my way to check out this short. Thankfully, I didn't have to as a press release was sent my way complete with the entire four-minute film focusing on 65-year old Mike Sullivan, a man who has an extensive collection of sexually enhanced robots that he's acquired in order to make some kind of stop-motion animated robot sex film. It's serious business.
Right off the bat, perhaps what's most interesting about Sullivan is that he's fully aware that he's a hoarder and in no way considers his behavior to be something everyday people do. Like any of us with vices or hobbies, he's merely passionate and dedicated about shooting this off-the-wall, but wholly intriguing robot sex film which even seems to have room for epic battles complete with the automaton creations (most containing breasts, penises and various penetrable orifices) using World War I weapons instead of the usual sci-fi ray guns. And when I say passionate, it's in every sense of the word. The collection on display is staggering complete with robots that have different kinds of testicles, vaginas and "fuckable butts." There's even sex machines for the robots to use. Talk about Inception!
In one short line, Sullivan's views on robots, and maybe his inspiration for his sex film, lies within the idea that they were original created as a sort of slave to do countless tasks. Honestly, I have a hard time thinking of a film that has robots in it where they weren't created just to do certain tasks. Giving them a film in which they merely battle and have sex completely turns them into more human-like creations in his mind. Sullivan even says, "They don't need to fuck, but they do it compulsively. They're kinda like metaphors for human behavior." Honestly, Sullivan doesn't sound much different from the very filmmakers writers like myself and audiences around the world become so entranced by in movie theaters.
This short documentary could easily just have aimed to poke fun at Sullivan and his strange hobby, but director Matt Lenski (who has directed music videos for Fall Out Boy and Regina Spektor) has captured some truly touching and genuine moments that show Sullivan isn't just some crazy guy. Lenski watches and let's Sullivan do the storytelling. And on top of that, Sullivan has some very intricate plots and settings, despite the fact that they mostly end up in robot sex. If money was no object, there's no doubt that plenty of people would want to see how this robot film turns out. If anyone is looking to fund a truly original film, someone should get in touch with Mike Sullivan.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10