“Papa” (Dominik Warta) finds ten-year-old Elli (Lena Watson) floating lifeless in the pool adjacent to their house. Rather than panic, he carries her back and reboots her: Elli has been built as a replicate of his young daughter who disappeared years prior.
Sharing a title with the philosophy tome by Emil Cioran, who described birth as “that laughable accident”, The Trouble With Being Born is an unnerving and thought-provoking drama that revolves around a familiar sci-fi trope. However, filmmaker Sandra Wollner distances her sophomore feature in both tone and pace from common sci-fi genre touchstones, striking similar notes to the underseen Marjorie Prime, which also tackled the topic of AI through meditations on human memory. Like Michael Almereyda’s film, The Trouble With Being Born is not really about androids but human psychology, with Wollner and her co-writer Roderick Warich positing that machines aren’t here to enslave us. Rather, the droids hold up a mirror to human nature, allowing us to better delve into questions of memory and the grief humans often struggle to overcome.
Awarded the Special Jury Award in last year’s Berlinale Encounters section, the film garnered some controversy surrounding the deeply disturbing implications of the central relationship, but there’s so much more at play beyond the surface. Wollner’s captivating and at times perplexing Frankenstein update stays with you long after you’ve finished watching, making it an eerie and audacious triumph.
Read our interview with Sandra Wollner here.
The Trouble With Being Born / Directed by Sandra Wollner (Austria, Germany, 2020), with Lena Watson, Dominik Warta. Starts July 1.