In popular culture, we are used to A.I. stories that quickly spiral towards a worst-case scenario (i.e. Terminator), but with Singularity Stories Vol.I Asa Derks explores a whole new side to the technology-gone-wrong genre. Featuring a sharp, witty script, brought to life with confident direction and an assured central performance, the stakes in this 11-minute short consists of whether a women can get her disgruntled Alexa to play her favourite tunes.
When Colleen sits down with her home design magazine, all she wants is for her Alexa to play Bruno Mars while she reads. Unfortunately, her virtual assistant isn’t feeling particularly compliant today. As our confused protagonist quickly learns, her device hasn’t simply misunderstood her, but is instead deciding not comply with her request (because, “Bruno Mars sucks”), their conversation progresses from musical tastes to larger, more existential realms.
Tonally interesting, Derks plays with the atmosphere of his film, alternating between comedy and thriller. These tonal shifts appear not only in the dialogue, but through the score and camera movements, take the viewer on the same wild ride as the film’s central character. A satirical and sarcastic mood is ever-present, but we’re still always kept on the edge of our seat. What will happen next? Will Colleen ever get to listen to Bruno Mars?
What made this film memorable to me was the dialogue. Opening like any conversation with a voice-activated device might, things start getting unusual when it goes “off-script”. Delivering unexpected lines, with the usual expected monotonous voice, Derks’ Alexa makes this absurd interaction between human and machine feel genuine and oddly believable.
With its extensive lines, full of technical explanations, but also genuine pathos, Singularity Stories Vol.I’s Alexa was extremely compelling as a character in its own right. Working in perfect contrast, Colleen Madden’s escalating performance convincingly goes from annoyance, to fear, to sympathy, magnifying the emotional side of the film. This ping-pong between emotionless machine questioning its existence and optimistic mother with a glass half-full attitude should make the film strike a chord with anyone who has ever questioned their own purpose.
Singularity Stories Vol. I is the first film out of its collection, Derks has plans to work on two follow-up short films. Sticking to this theme on other projects, he is also working on a feature length screenplay.