Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, 2007
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, the duo more popularly known as Daft Punk, have always had a long standing affair with film. Their first album Homework spawned numerous innovative music videos such as those for Around the World and Da Funk, giving visionary directors such as Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze some of their earliest exposure. With their follow on album Discovery they would collaborate with renowned manga creator Leiji Matsumoto on Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem a feature length animation set to the album, with the film divided up into it’s separate songs for release as music videos.
It is this point in their chronology that Electroma comes along, originally intended to simply be a music video for the title track off of their third recording Human After All, the concept soon snowballed into a feature length production with Daft Punk choosing to co-direct. Shot over the course of 11 days in the desert of Barstow, Electroma follows the robotic alter egos of Daft Punk as they pass through a world populated by robots, as they attempt to be transformed back into humans (people familiar with Daft Punk‘s mythology will be aware they were born human and only became robots when infected with the 909 virus). When this fails they head out into the desert, walking aimlessly to their certain death.
The film is sparse in every way, most notably in that their isn’t a single line of dialogue spoken throughout. Regardless of this the motives of the robots and their emotions are always clear, their disappointment at their failure to make the transition and their despair as they flee into the desert. The cinematography consists of extended tracking shots (with steadicam operated by none other than Chris Cunningham) with harshly lit white corridors reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whilst it’s minimal and steady approach may leave some viewers cold, it is fans of meditative science fiction such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running that will understand and appreciate it’s approach.
Perhaps the most unusual stylistic choice made by a duo primarily known as musicians is the restricted use of music. A mere nine songs feature on the soundtrack, none of which are performed by Daft Punk themselves instead choosing to use tracks by the likes of Brian Eno and Curtis Mayfield instead, it’s a curious choice given that the film was envisaged specifically to accompany the song Human After All. This would seem to be to avoid Electroma being viewed as Daft Punk repeating themselves, having already made one film scored by their previous album their was no need in repeating the task.
Although no further plans to continue their directorial career have been discussed, the duo have continued a close relationship with film. They provided both a cameo and the score for Tron: Legacy (the films only saving grace) and Bangalter continued his collaboration with Gaspar Noe providing the opening theme for Enter the Void, having previously contributed the score to his 2002 film Irreversible. Making electronic music, sampling the work of other people is a large part of what Daft Punk do. With Electroma they appear to have applied the same approach to filmmaking, drawing on their influences to combine the visuals of Kubrick with a story reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry with their own personal touch, making a film that stands alongside the likes of Duncan Jones’ Moon as one of the more mature and interesting science fiction works of the decade.
words by pete bond.