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Skin striptease in Ex Machina

by Critical Commons Manager

Alex Garland's Ex Machina succeeds in having it both ways with women whose sexuality is highlighted through organic and mechanical nudity. While scenes like these are surprisingly unself-conscious about reproducing the cinematic trope of face removal as the "money shot" of cyborg revelation, the post-humanism of the film's multi-homicidal ending is a genuine rarity in commercial cinema. Humans are not only disposable but functionally irrelevant to the future of artificial existence.

Ava: Session 5

by Maclane Mueller

Alex Garland’s 2015 directorial debut Ex Machina is the story of a computer programmer named Caleb who wins a trip to meet Nathan Bateman, CEO of the world’s most popular search engine. Not long after arriving at Nathan’s isolated, state of the art home Caleb is told the true reason he is there: To perform the Turing test to Nathan’s most advanced android prototype, Ava. The film is largely made up of a series of one on one sessions between Caleb and Ava. Throughout the seven sessions more and more information is gathered about our three characters and their intentions and purposes.

The clip provided is session five of seven. In this session, instead of seeing Caleb test Ava per usual, we have a fully dressed Ava turning the tables and testing him instead. In this session, as well as many others we can clearly see the humanoid side of Ava. In the clip she expresses concern of being “switched off” by questioning Caleb about the possible ramifications of failing her test. Here, Ava, an android compares herself to our human protagonist Caleb by stating that if he does not have to live under the constant threat of being tested and switched off, then neither should she. She does all of this knowing well that her overseer, Nathan is watching them on computer monitors the entire time. Only after she mentions all of these extremely emotional, human opinions does she trigger a power shutdown.

*** Remainder of commentary contains spoilers ***

The power shutdown shown in the clip is not the only shutdown we have in the film. In fact there are at least four more throughout the film. The shutdowns are revealed to be Ava’s doing. She performs these shutdowns in order to cut Nathan’s video feed and get some alone time with Caleb. During these moments Ava slowly convinces Caleb that Nathan is evil and that they should escape together. In the end Caleb and Ava devise a detailed plan that goes exactly as planned save for one detail: Ava abandons Caleb once she no longer needs him, leaving him locked in the glass interview room. Ava escapes alone and escapes in the helicopter her and Caleb had planned to escape in together.

After Ava’s betrayal of Caleb the actual purpose of the sessions became clear. Upon first meeting Caleb, Ava saw more than just another human; she saw a way out. While she seemed to show genuine affection for Caleb, especially during the power shutoff scenes, she was feigning affection in order to manipulate Caleb into releasing her. Like HAL and other robot characters discussed in my previous commentaries, Ava clearly has a mind of her own and uses her superior capabilities to outsmart the humans. However, Ava proves to have a level of pure hatred for humans in general. This is something that she was not programmed with but developed over her imprisonment in Nathan’s basement. She easily could have taken Caleb along with her like planned but she has more satisfaction in leaving him to die. Caleb is a trustworthy person and proves this to Ava by helping her but she still shows no genuine emotion or care towards him. Again reinforcing the idea that androids with a level of sentience are dangerous.

A fembot reveals her true self by peeling off sections of skin in Ex Machina

The fluidity between organic and mechanical femininity is highlighted through a striptease of the skin

from Ex Machina (2015)
Creator: Alex Garland
Distributor: DNA Films
Posted by Critical Commons Manager