Teknolust Movie Review

A sci-fi film for those who enjoy the concept and theory of the genre, if not actually its practice, Teknolust would probably be better enjoyed if it had been made into a multimedia display for a modern art museum. But, alas, it was not, and so viewers have to endure new media artist Lynn Hershman Leeson's uncomfortable attempts at taking her cracking-stiff theories and translating them into dramatic narrative form.

Dipping back into the world of the micro-indie film - which she seemed to have mostly abandoned after the passing of her cinematic mentor, Derek Jarman - Tilda Swinton plays four roles here, but Dr. Strangelove it ain't. Her primary role is as Rosetta Stone (get it?), a bio-geneticist who, in a strangely-reasoned attempt to help the world by creating robots equipped with artificial intelligence, has discovered how to download her own DNA into a computer and thus create three SRAs (Self Replicating Automatons) in her image. The SRAs are named Ruby, Marine and Olive and dresses them each according to color (red, blue, and green). This doesn't serve much purpose besides being pretty look at, and also giving us an easy way of telling the Swintons apart (aside from the fashion-victim wigs Ruby and Olive wear). Rosetta herself is easy enough to ID: as the nerdy scientist, they put her in the most frightful and unattractive of the wigs and make her goggle out at the world from behind a pair of giant glasses.

Why concentrate so much on the appearance of the Swintons? Because, honestly, there isn't much else to pay attention to in the film. The plot has the most autonomous of the SRAs, Ruby, going out each night into the city to seduce men from whom she can harvest sperm; she and her sisters need constant infusions of the male Y chromosome to survive. Olive and Marine lounge about at home, meanwhile, watching TV and chatting in the manner of innocent five-year-olds. Some medical officials start getting worried because the men whom Ruby has slept with are all starting to come down with a rash - it spreads across their foreheads in a barcode shape and has a number at its center. The idea of a digital virus spreading in this manner is tres cyberpunk indeed but doesn't come to much. There also seems to be some attempt to make points on the merging of digital and real selves ("come e-dream with me," Ruby says on her massively popular website) and issues of freedom when Rosetta starts wondering about how restricted she should keep the increasingly curious SRAs, but that, too, is frittered away.

As Swinton is such a curiously magnetic presence, Teknolust would have been actually much more engaging had the film been more of a chamber piece with just her and her four selves - when Jeremy Davies, as an irritating copy shop slacker, and Karen Black, playing a conspiracy theorist by the name of Dirty Dick, show up for some supporting work, it only serves as a reminder of how ineffective as drama the rest of the film is.



Teknolust Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 2004


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