Short synopsis: The non-verbal documentary ROBOT WORLD depicts the evolution of robots from a mechanical somnambulist to an autonomous sensorium. The neoclassical violinist Matt Howden emphasizes the film’s message: these artificial people are our alternate doubles.
About the film: ROBOT WORLD is a compilation. The source material for this one-hour film comes from robot laboratories at universities, from private footage at industrial fairs, military archives and corporate videos from the robot industry. Motion pictures of old 16 mm films from the 1930’s were added. This non-verbal documentary was recycled from far in excess of one hundred hours of raw material. ROBOT WORLD is the second film in the “Technology & Mind & Evolution” series of Munich filmmaker Martin Hans Schmitt. The first film in this series, HIGHWAY WORLD, deals with highway worlds and in 2008/2009 was successful at international film festivals.
ROBOT WORLD is 60 minutes long and subdivided into six main parts. The main parts (vibrations, discovering rooms, animal-like, production & talk, children’s games, war and penetration) are flagged by short video paintings which signal the felt evolutionary state. Besides the main sequences, three surrealistic inserts show the manifestation of robots developing; evolving from pure machine, a sleep-walking creature, to an artificial human able to free itself from its mechanical casing and float towards perfect freedom.
The enormous pool of material (122 hours of raw material) allowed the director Martin Hans Schmitt to cyclically repeat the same content without actually having to repeat the same image source. Furthermore, montages of sequential images with the same two-dimensional content in color, in form and in motion serve as graphical transitions.
There is no recognizable narrative structure to ROBOT WORLD. This non-verbal documentary works with the open structure of a topic’s pattern. This thematic pattern can be found in the individual parts of ROBOT WORLD and demonstrates that the construction of robots is in fact evolutionary. This applies to both, the exterior as well as the interior level. The exterior evolutionary line of machine beings begins with a “protozoon” in the form of nano-robots, advances to the development of arms, hands and legs as well as to insect-type swarm beings and even develops cold-blooded animals, mammals and humanoid robots. This biological development is accompanied by an imitation of typically human activities such as discovering rooms, being a playmate for children, leading wars or performing operations on a human body. These imitations are like a trace of the interior evolutionary line of robots.
Matt Howden's music wraps itself around the film; the piano traces the restrictions of movement, the constrictions of the mechanism and man-made muscles and forms. It taps the tempo for their actions. The strings pad the music, rolling round and under the piano. The string cause the organic swell of the ensemble, or they sound as if mechanically restriced, looped in small cycles and set at odds with the movement of the music. The violin, often linked to the human voice, is here the voice of the robots: their expression, their functionality, and their aspiration.
Robots are the shadow image of their engineers – internally as well as externally. Man’s evolution is continued in machine beings. At the end of the film it is left up to the viewer to decide whether these artificial beings will at some future day free themselves from the evolutionary line of the sapient. The compilation ROBOT WORLD offers no narration and invites to reflect on the differences of our apparent doppelgaengers.
Director Martin Hans Schmitt: Martin Hans Schmitt has completed the University of Television and Film Munich. Since 2003, he produces research and instructional films for the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich. The German filmmaker also produces stereoscopic 3D films and essayistic documentaries.
Composer Matt Howden: Howden is a music producer, composer and performer. In his home town of Sheffield, he runs Redroom studio and record label. His main activity is with his solo, live-looping violin show, as SIEBEN. This is increasingly popular with fans of Dark Wave, Neofolk and Indie-Pop.