After receiving a critical mauling upon release, A.I. Artificial Intelligence has become one of Spielberg’s most debated and admired films, with a vast number of great essays being written about it. Film Quarterly have the latest, as penned by the great critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.
The A.I. passage in the Vanity Fair piece I posted last night got me thinking about the film. Spielberg said, “A substitute love child, you know, is almost a crime, and the human race pays for that crime” and that’s certainly true. The only human we see at the end of the film is a projection of David’s mother. Everyone else is long gone, replaced by robots.
What interested me though is the idea of David as a victim of the crime Spielberg speaks of. He’s certainly a victim of sorts. He’s first created by Professor Hobby as a means to help the man recover from his son’s death, and then adopted by Monica and Henry Swinton to perform a similar task for them. In the end, he’s taken in by the advanced mechas and is again used - he becomes a lab rat who is experimented on to help the mechas understand human love.
But is David totally innocent in all this? Perhaps not. David is committing the same crimes that are being inflicted upon him. Just as he was used, he is now using Monica to help him feel loved. It’s the tragic brutality at the heart of the film. Humanity’s most basic need is for love, and we’ll do anything to gain it.
Written around the time of A.I Artificial Intelligence’s release, this is a great look at Brian Aldiss, the author of the short story on which the film is based - Super Toys Last All Summer Long.
It’s a fascinating interview that includes the following passage about the creative differences between Aldiss and Stanley Kubrick:
“Stanley was set upon making a modernised version of Pinocchio in which David the android boy meets the Blue Fairy and becomes transformed into a real boy.
“I hoped that Stanley would create another future myth and not really look back.