'Androids Dream' ('Sueñan los Androides - Androiden Träumen'): Berlin Review

Androids Dream
Engagingly deadpan

A lo-fi spin on Philip K. Dick’s "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," with the Spanish coastal city of Benidorm subbing in for Earth, 2054

Comparisons to Blade Runner are swiftly dispensed with in Ion de Sosa’s enjoyably oddball Androids Dream, which replaces the gloom of Ridley Scott’s opus with the mordant humor and affectless violence of Dick’s original. Running at only sixty-one minutes, prospects outside of the festival circuit look decidedly limited, though Dick aficionados who lamented the exclusion of the hero’s pet sheep from Scott’s adaptation might give this faithful if idiosyncratic retooling a certain cult appeal.

The Catalan city of Benidorm was transformed in the 60’s from sleepy fishing village to holiday hotspot. De Sosa shoots it in off-peak season, making for a nicely eerie, depopulated future landscape — ea dowdier version of Logan’s Run, with which it shares a sunny pastel aesthetic.

Opening with detached, displaced shots of the city, clinically regarding it as though it’s the subject of an ethnographic study, this is a film of stately pace, as well as a locked-off approach to composition influenced by the filmmaker’s background in documentary. There’s no score and for large swathes of it the film is sans dialogue. De Sosa (his own cinematographer) dwells unhurriedly on the still cityscape as seen from above, as well as on empty streets and derelict rooms whose only features are protruding pipes and crumbling stucco.

Shot in 16mm and in the boxy aspect ratio that characterized the director’s first feature, True Love (2011), Androids Dream is sci-fi that manages to look like the future by virtue of feeling out of time – tethered to no decade in particular but recognizably earth-bound.

Documentary footage of ordinary people presenting themselves uncertainly to the camera is intercut with a montage of civilians being gunned down by an unseen shooter. A harmless-looking chap flips eggs and patties on a grill, then he puts down his spatula and a hole appears in his chest, hurling him backwards. A woman gazes nonchalantly into the lens when a booming shot rings out and she collapses. This is the cop (Manolo Marín) as impersonal serial killer, and the film’s structure immediately alienates us from him.

De Sosa and his co-writers Chema García Ibarra and Jorge Gil break up this montage of murder with a handful of vignettes, some very funny, in which three friends – soon to be targets – shoot the breeze. A couple with baby asks their friend (Moisés Richart) if he’s ever had sex with a human. What was it was like? “Bueno. Muy bueno”. He meets his end in a gay club, where our implacable bagman picks him up. The metaphor might be plain but the line of equivalence is, mercifully, not belabored. 

Shot over three years for a week at a time, the whole thing feels episodic but of a piece. A sense of sequential narrative emerges only gradually, when our detective goes after the young family and their baby. By this point he’s less of a cipher. We’ve seen him dancing with his girlfriend at a discotheque, and at the vet, where he’s upset because he has to put down his sheep. It’s the only time even the remotest of emotions registers – this is a film frugal with external displays of any kind. Soon he’s haggling over the price of a substitute; “four thousand pesos”, the salesman says – “sheep are very rare”.

Where Blade Runner adopted the hunter's point of view, De Sosa has us identify with the victims instead — which is not, in the end, quite so subversive. But this is a film of deliberate rhythms and unmistakable loyalties. By getting rid of the interrogative, after all, a film called Androids Dream has already nailed its colors to the mast. 

Production company: Ion de Sosa Filmproduktion

Cast: Manolo Marín, Moisés Richart, Marta Bassols, Coque Sánchez

Director: Ion de Sosa

Screenplay: Ion de Sosa, Chema García Ibarra, Jorge Gil

Producers: Ion de Sosa, Luis Ferrón, Luis López Carrasco, Karsten Matern

Director of Photography: Ion de Sosa

Editor: Sergio Jiménez

Sales: Luis Ferrón, Luis López Carrasco


No rating, 61 minutes