“I see many tears”
Back in 1962 author Philip K. Dick asked the question, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” From there director Ridley Scott brought Blade Runner to life in 1982 and today we have Spaniard Ion De Sosa commenting on the query himself with Sueñan los androids [Androids Dream]. For him the answer to Dick’s question isn’t necessarily yes to the sheep part, but it is definitively a yes to the dreams. His futuristic androids roaming about a sterile 2052 Earth dream about assimilation and equality. They dream about living a life like that lived by the elderly folks surrounding them with jobs, children, and love. They aren’t our destruction, but it’s very possible they will become it—especially if we as humans continue hunting them like animals.
This is the occupation of De Sosa’s lead character. Played by Manolo Marín, this shaved-headed assassin stalks his prospective targets until cornering them in moderate seclusion to pull the trigger. It’s hardly an exact science as the action following an open montage of the half-finished skyscrapers of fishing town turned tourist city bustling with retirees known as Benidorm shows bodies upon bodies mowed down by Marín and his coworkers’ guns in public. The murders appear clinical, each victim carefully chosen while others in frame remain unharmed. Did those still alive know the deceased wasn’t human? Do we know? Our only certainty is that they’re dead. We assume Marín has cause, but that’s our minds searching for a reason to accept the act.
The film this hitman inhabits is the epitome of minimalistic and abstract—an art film with many more questions than answers. The word android is never used so the only basis for us believing the dead are robots is the nod to Dick’s novel in the title. In fact, when Moisés Richart talks to his friends (a married couple with child) about what it’s like to be on Earth and have sex with humans, he mentions a spaceship. Perhaps De Sosa isn’t showing us a world with androids at all, but one infiltrated and colonized by aliens who look and act just like us instead. Maybe this is the aftermath of an invasion and men like Marín are our last line of defense to stop it.
As humanity ages (seen via contextually random montages of elderly couples smiling for the camera or dancing), it’s the youth we must fear. Those perishing are around the same age as Marín, hidden in plain sight with even younger versions of themselves to mask the fact they don’t belong. It must be aliens since androids cannot reproduce in this way, right? I guess anything is possible in a science fiction film, but I can’t stop feeling as though the Dick connection wasn’t as crucial as the marketing machine would like us to believe. This is a world on the cusp of extinction with an unwelcome guest making it their home. We need human youth to infiltrate their population now, pretending to be alien until … BAM!
I don’t know. At this point I’m just pulling at straws to make sense of a story that may not need to make sense. Androids Dream could very well be a metaphor for racism and exclusion—the status quo exterminating those it doesn’t deem worthy of life. It could also simply be a glimpse at a future of empty buildings made of unsustainable money; new cityscapes created in places nature didn’t originally render for such a purpose solely because mankind wanted to prove it was greater than God. Our Earth grows tired and polluted but we continue expanding towards the sun so all that’s leftover are shells of material gain we no longer have the numbers to utilize or preserve.
And beyond that lay the formal properties that make De Sosa’s film a thing of beauty to gaze upon regardless of meaning or purpose. Images like Marín and Richart sitting in a darkened club with pinpoint lighting illuminating their faces and bodies as though the stars exist within them or the consuming shadow of water and soap turning the inside of a car getting washed into a vacuumed void of nothingness aren’t easily shaken. The juxtaposition of serene concrete behemoths, bright neon haze, and an extreme fascination with fences and dividers provide slides of static construction unmoving against the progression of time unlike those creatures of flesh and blood losing the fight everyday. The past is dead and the future might be as well.