After another restless night of bad dreams, Noé walks through the forest where she finds what appears to be a body of a child, or something which resembles a child; inanimate and partially covered in moss, but relatively intact, the eyes give it away that it is not human but an artificial construct.
Carrying it to her home, Noé sets about repairing it in her workshop, cleaning it and charging it so it reactivates; unable to recall its past, by default it offers domestic service but soon begins exploring the forest in the company of Noé by day and her home by night while she sleeps restlessly, opening cupboards and drawers, looking through books of photographs.
Directed by Jerry Hoffmann from a script by Florens Huhn and developed at the Hamburg Media School, I Am is a short film of loneliness and identity starring Sheri Hagen as the cyberneticist Noé, grieving after the recent death of her daughter, and Melodie Wakivuamina as the android Ela, observing and learning, every attempt made by Noé to understand it rebuffed by a question.
Wakivuamina’s mannerisms and movement evoking the uncanny valley, her too-perfect features and hair betrayed by the intensity of her stare, Ela makes pancakces, mimics eating, learns to dance, but what is her purpose? With only one source of input, what starts as an approximation of Noé, replicating her habits, soon becomes a disturbing simulacrum.
Is Ela a doppelgänger trying to metaphorically steal her soul, or is her presence a harbinger of bad luck as indicated by myths of such beings? Running to less than half an hour including credits, like Ela herself, I Am presents more questions than answers, unable to do little more than introduce the characters and offer hints of the wider future world which one has rejected and the other has been cast out of.
Perhaps not forging new ideas in the already expansive examinations of relations between humans and the artificial intelligences they create, I Am is carried effortlessly by the understated performances of Hagen and Wakivuamina, the power balance between them tipping as the awakened innocent becomes more sophisticated, one who suffers from nightmares and one who wishes to know what it is to dream, one of them haunted and the other hunted.
I Am is screening at Cinequest and Cleveland International Film Festivals