One of Alex Garland’s goals in writing the script for his directorial debut, EX MACHINA, was to get the science right, even for subjects such as consciousness and artificial intelligence, which are so poorly understood. He vetted the script with experts, refusing to shoehorn the science to make his story work. He’s still smarting from what he terms sacrificing logic and reason for adrenalin in his script for SUNSHINE, though, as I pointed out during our conversation on March 17, 2015, it didn’t detract one whit from the emotional truth of the film itself, nor, may I add, its excellence.
We went on to talk about his long term relationship with Danny Boyle, who directed SUNSHINE from Garland’s script, and THE BEACH, from Garland’s novel of the same name, though it was not Garland who wrote the screenplay for that film, and I asked him why that was. We also discussed adolescent rebellion, the mechanics of writing, and what most directors really think about writers, the aesthetic possibility of post-it notes, and why the question is more important than the answer.
EX MACHINA is a stark, yet emotionally gripping tale about intelligence, perception, and projection. Domnhall Gleeson stars as Caleb, a programmer asked to take part in a unique experiment by Nathan, a reclusive, suitably eccentric computer genius, played by Oscar Isaac, who lives in splendid isolation on a remote estate/research facility. There Caleb engages in conversations with Ava, played by Alicia Vikander) an artificial intelligence house in the facsimile of a beautiful young woman, but a woman whose workings are revealed through clear housings in arms and abdomen. The purpose is to see if Ava’s artificial intelligence has reached the level of consciousness that would distinguish it from computer to sentient being. In the course of his conversations with both Ava and Nathan, Caleb is confronted with conflicting views of reality, leaving him, and us, wondering who to trust, and why. Garland’s previous work includes writing the screenplays for both 28 DAYS LATER and SUNSHINE, both directed by Danny Boyle, as well as writing the novel on which Boyle’s film THE BEACH was based.