Essays · Movies

A Cute Lonely Robot Roams a Post-Human Paris in This Sci-Fi Short Film

By  · Published on April 16th, 2015

This article is part of Humanity and the Machine, our exploration of the cinematic interactions between humans and self-aware machines.

Notre Dame is overrun by vines, the Arc de Triomphe is near collapse, and a Hobbit-sized robot gets really good at origami.

This short film from a group of ISART Digital students is a masterful bit of silent storytelling that’s bittersweet before it goes into full-fledged heartbreak mode. L3.0 offers us a reality upfront – that mankind is extinct – but fleshes out what that means in a uniquely poetic way.

In the film, our tiny hero sighs through empty streets before discovering a spark of life. It’s a butterfly, and he takes it home to bring energy into his apartment. What follows has a lot of potential meanings – as commentary on the robot’s inability to understand life, on its ability to craft something in its image, on the fragility of all things – but the most stunning is also the most direct. It’s also the simplest. The profound emptiness of loss. We won’t even become silhouettes when our bodies finally go.

It’s unclear whether the robot is meant to be self-aware. The case could go either way. Like Wall-E, it seems content to go about its business, so it’s either burdened by loneliness or we’re guilty of imbuing it with human emotions that it doesn’t have.

Either way, it’s a striking piece of work. The CGI is fluid, and the robot appropriately stands out against a (slightly) impressionistic portrait of Paris. It’s also a quiet gut punch built from what must have been the echo of a tragedy.

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.