Almost Human; completely inspiring

The premiere of acclaimed Danish director Jeppe Rønde’s new film Almost Human was one of many highlights at the House of Scandinavia during this year’s SXSW.

It’s not widely known that the Carlsberg Foundation sets aside a considerable amount of its profits each year to benefit science and the arts. It’s also unusual for top directors to be given an almost open brief to make a movie, which is exactly what happened when Jeppe Rønde was approached with an offer to make a film for the brewery giant two years ago that would eventually premiere at the House of Scandinavia. The offer came with only one proviso – Rønde had to choose among the many scientists that Carlsberg supports, to be involved in the film in some capacity.

Narrated by renowned English thespian Stephen Fry, Almost Human asks us a series of philosophical questions as part of a study of man’s relationship with technology and how we came to the point where are now and where we may be going in future. 

In the thought-provoking film, Rønde meets 10 of the world's foremost scientific researchers. These philosophers, anthropologists, archaeologists and programmers show us through their experiments that our relationship with technology is just as much about our relationship with ourselves.

“The initial process was a massive one, but all films are difficult in their own way,” says Rønde “This was difficult in terms of the massive overload of information from each scientist – they are the best in their fields and know so much that you and I would never really understand,” says Rønde, who does an admirable job in making complex issues accessible and understandable to a general audience. 

One of the many salient points Rønde makes during the film is about man’s relationship to the environment, and the fact that it’s not nature itself that has given us the environment and climate we have now, rather it’s a result of humanity’s impact on our planet.

“The film is really about the history of the universe. We didn’t know about things like the Big Bang 100 years ago and there are still things we don’t know now – to accept that is key to the film, because accepting we will never know, means that we’ll lose control, and humans have a huge need to have control. In some senses it’s a scary thought, but personally I think it’s brilliant!”

Rønde uses clever film making and storytelling techniques to infer that mankind has created its own “monster” in the form of robots and Artificial Intelligence, and asks the question where that particular journey may take us. 

The genie is, for the most part already out of the bottle, he argues. “Most scientists say point of no return is long gone. What will happen with AI and robots? I try to tell story of Frankenstein and his monster in the film – what happened – he coudnt give him love, and as a consequence they both die – I think what Frankenstein wanted was to keep that control. But I think what’s positive about our future is if we can allow ourselves to “lose control,” we would finally set ourselves free.”

Whether we’re prepared to allow ourselves to loosen that much-needed sense of control is one of the most complex issues we all face according to Rønde. Making the movie, he said, had a profound effect on him as it is likely to on those who see it. 

“My preconceptions changed as I went along,” says the director. “But then I don’t believe in films that have all the answers. To me, it’s all about asking questions – and hopefully I ask the right ones.”

Almost Human has its Danish premiere at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek on 21 March. 


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