ovies are not real, and few
moviemakers have been as adept at finding original ways to counterfeit
human emotion as Mr. Spielberg. (The Flesh Fair might be a Dogma
95 pep rally, or a meeting of dyspeptic film critics protesting
the movie’s lavish and startling special effects, including the
computer-enhanced broken- down robots doomed to destruction.)
But here Mr. Spielberg confronts a crucial and difficult question:
Do the virtual selves we project into the world, on screen and
elsewhere, bring us closer to knowing who we are, or do they distract
us from our search for that knowledge? “I am, I was,” Joe says
to David as they part company, asserting as a flat fact what the
movie takes as unanswerable questions: What are we? What will
“Stories are real,” David insists to Monica before she leaves him to his fate. They aren’t, of course. But stories that touch on the essential and unsolvable mysteries of who we are can nonetheless be true, and they are truest when they illuminate those mysteries while leaving them intact.
. . . The very end somehow fuses the cathartic comfort of infantile wish fulfillmentthe dream that the first perfect love whose loss we experience as the fall from Eden might be restoredwith a feeling almost too terrible to acknowledge or to name. Refusing to cuddle us or lull us into easy sleep, Mr. Spielberg locates the unspoken moral of all our fairy tales. To be real is to be mortal; to be human is to love, to dream and to perish.
A. O. Scott, "Do Androids Long for Mom?" New York Times (June 29, 2001)
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