Electroma is a curious film; an existential buddy flick about a pair of robots that want to be human, it is a 70-minute vanity project by French house music duo Daft Punk. While not a silent movie, it is devoid of dialogue, and boasts no legitimate character development or discernable story structure. It has a filmic direction that can best be described as meandering: stuff happens – especially toward its nihilistic conclusion – but one gets the sense that this is not a film about plot points or characterisation, but about pacing and ocular gamesmanship. So, taken on that level, it should be noted that it looks really cool.
The robots tear around the salt flats in a flash car with a number plate that reads “HUMAN” to a booming backbeat of Brian Eno, Todd Rundgren, Curtis Mayfield (and whoever else the cool kids reference these days), encountering similarly kitted-out robots – including little kid-bots eating ice cream, and all sorts of other internal-logic smashing elements. The second act is a visit to a profoundly creepy white-washed laboratory, where the robots get “human flesh” applied to their motorcycle helmet heads – which works about as well as one would expect.
In the end, Electroma is about isolation, identity and desire, and it's remarkably poetic and surprisingly deep. Directors Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are clearly taking filmmaking seriously, and have made an experimental film to be proud of. However, this is patently an experiment, and any potential audiences expecting a film as remotely accessible as Daft Punk's music videos (directed by the likes of Michel Gondry, Roman Coppola and Spike Jonze) should be forewarned against it.
Even more off-the-wall than the band's unusual video clips, this is niche filmmaking, pitched at an audience more interested in the avant garde than narrative storytelling.