WHEN THE INHUMAN BECOMES HUMAN: AN EXAMINATION OF THE MUSICAL PORTRAYAL OF THE ROBOT IN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY SCIENCE-FICTION CINEMA THROUGH AN ANALYSIS OF THE FILM SCORES OF AUTOMATA, EX MACHINA, AND THE MACHINE
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Ronald Pen
Science fiction film has been telling stories about artificial anthropomorphic robots and androids for almost a hundred years, spawning films, such as Metropolis (1927), Ghost in the Shell (1951), and Blade Runner (1982). Each of these science-fiction films was complemented by a musical score that helped to create an onscreen world dominated by a dystopian view of the future. Influenced by the generations of prior science-fiction films, Automata (2014), The Machine (2013), and Ex Machina (2015) are all concerned with the same narrative in which humanity is in decline while artificial robots are rising up and experiencing life in a way that humans are no longer capable of doing. These three films were all chosen as exemplars of recent science- fiction films with stories about robots versus humans. Further, this difference between robots and humans is paralleled in the film's musical scores. Humans are represented by depressive musical themes with dull and cold timbres that symbolize how empty they have become. Robots, on the other hand, are represented by bright and lively timbres that symbolize how the robots are living more vibrant lives than humans.
This thesis traces themes for humans and robots through several important moments and tropes in each film: the state of humanity, the first encounter with the robot, the quality of life for robots and humans, and the eventual conflict that erupts between artificial and organic life. This conflict ends with the arrival of a robotic Eve figure, a sole female robot that is set apart by the film score as a special being, the start of a new age that is dominated by robotic life. These films choose to portray female robots and promote the idea of Eve because the female is seen as a mysterious Other to be feared; in the same way, humans fear these female robots because of their Otherness. Analysis and conclusions were achieved through transcription of the film scores, interviews with the film composers, analysis connecting the score to the visual scene, and constructing a historical context that connects the three films to their predecessors.
Future research can expand on these findings by adding more science fiction films to the film pool, examining just how far the musical difference between humans and robots can be traced in film. Unlocking the musical themes assigned to humans and examining how they change over time can reveal how humans perceive themselves, for better or worse. This study is also meant to serve as a gateway for more science fiction films to be studied through their music, as some film's have hidden meanings that can only be understood by examining the music and how it interacts with the visual scene. A study of Automata, The Machine, and Ex Machina manifests how humanity is making way for the robotic Eve and the next stage of evolution for the world.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
O'Brien, Rebecca Ann, "WHEN THE INHUMAN BECOMES HUMAN: AN EXAMINATION OF THE MUSICAL PORTRAYAL OF THE ROBOT IN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY SCIENCE-FICTION CINEMA THROUGH AN ANALYSIS OF THE FILM SCORES OF AUTOMATA, EX MACHINA, AND THE MACHINE" (2019). Theses and Dissertations--Music. 142.