Mirror Human [2020, SciFi London 2020]

“Please remember me…”


There is a LOT going on in this film and I feel like I didn’t do it justice watching it (my concentration wasn’t 100% in it), so I think I need to re-watch this.

This film follows three different interlocking stories around genetically modified replicas/androids called Transcendants. Their lives are tragically short and it explores their complicated stories. From the offset we find out that the world is quite barren and that these androids have been created with excellent genes for a variety of reasons, but at some point they become unacceptable to human society and the Mirror project (which is what they are called) is suspended.

There’s this evident sense of otherness for the Transcendants compared to humans. At one point someone says that they are “the epitome of the human condition”, that they are “not like us” and they are not capable of loving in the way that humans do. However, we see very quickly that they definitely are, for instance through Xiao-Sun (the Boxer) and Tien’s relationship which is so endearing. The interesting thing about Xiao-Sun as well is that as the android, he is totally being used by the system/the man as a form of entertainment for the masses. You see him being physically beaten for others’ financial gain and it’s obvious from this that Transcendants are considered the lowest of the low. Like they’re disposable.

The film explores what it is to be human. There’s one part of the film where one of the androids says “once you have a name, you can call yourself human” (the androids are assigned numbers) and that sentence really made me think is that the only thing that sets us apart? Perhaps it’s the self awareness of our identities? I was reading recently about why we can’t remember the first years of our lives (don’t ask me why, I just was!) and that our earliest memories don’t start to form until approximately three onwards. I believe it’s the New Zealand Maori who have the earliest record of childhood memories which is something like from 2.5 years old onwards, and that’s simply because their culture places importance on indigenous and family history. There’s this theory in all of this that our memories only form when we have the language to do so, that memories are connected to language and not feelings/emotions and so when I heard them say the sentence about humanity and your name, it reminded me of that theory. Because having a name is more than about identity, it’s about connection to memories and history and kin and collectivity. This is the rabbit hole I went down having watched this film…

Liang (who calls himself the delivery driver) and his best friend Jay who is an android have a great dynamic which I enjoyed. Jay says that he has perfect genes yet he cannot beat Liang in a race, and Liang says that fear of death is what pushes him to drive faster. I feel like this is something that you see in sports people a lot. In order to compete at the highest level, to run your fastest, swim your farthest and so on, you have to feel like you are putting everything of yourself into it. Like you are pushing your body to the absolute limit so that idea definitely resonated. Perhaps androids aren’t capable of doing that, or perhaps it’s that the Transcendants sole desire is to live so why would they push that far (to the point of imminent death)? Also, such a cute little Star Wars reference (BB8) through the little robot friend of Liang’s.

I enjoyed the soundtrack which was lead by very elegant piano bits and it swung between very whimsical and then super determined sounding.

There was one bit of the film which I didn’t quite understand, which was that at parts people were wearing breathing masks. When the Boxer died, they all turned to face the camera with these masks on and it was acknowledged that he was no longer alive. I might have missed that but I wasn’t sure what the ecological reason was behind that. Who were the people with the masks? Was the earth unlivable, or was it a specific area? And there was an unspeaking, smiling girl with pigtails handing out masks. Was she a Transcendant? What I got from that was that she was, and that her purpose was to sit in an area that would be harmful to breathe if you were human, but because she’s like this disposable android her job is to do just that and hand out masks. I might totally have my wires crossed about that though… I really wish that there was a Q&A for this film because I would have liked to question this.

So all in all, this film definitely gave me some things to think about but I’m not sure how I feel about the film. Nice soundtrack. I liked the concept. I found it a little too complicated for a single watching, so I’ll definitely need to watch it again. I liked the dynamics between the characters and I know I will be thinking about this film for a long while. Really polished film, seemed like it had high production values and I really felt the tragic nature of the android’s lives. If you have any thoughts, would love to hear from you readers!

Check out Mirror Human here. To watch it, you’ll need to buy a film or festival pass.

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