Opening 1 Jul 2021
In return for funds for her research, Alma (Maren Eggert), a researcher at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, is coaxed into giving her professional opinion about a revolutionary new product, a robot boyfriend. She is tasked with living with this robot, named Tom (Dan Stevens), for three weeks. After which she must write an ethics review about her experience to help determine whether robots are fit for human use. Tom has been developed specifically to make her happy, but Alma is a reticent woman who has no wish for a non-human companion, particularly as she watches her ex with his new human girlfriend. Ich bin dein Mensch explores the theme of human loneliness, happiness, and just what requirements do we have for companionship and a fulfilling life.
Alma is a curious character. She makes her opinion of her role in the experiment clear from the beginning; she is not impressed with this new technology and she does not particularly want Tom in her life. Tom is a blank slate, his algorithm making constant adjustments to make himself a perfect partner for Alma, something which makes her even more suspicious. For what is a relationship if your partner is only there to serve your needs with no needs of their own? Interestingly, it is this very conflict which makes Tom develop even further, to the point where the difference between AI and organic life becomes difficult to differentiate. As Tom becomes more ideal, the temptation to accept him into her life becomes stronger. What is the point of struggling against happiness anyways, even if it is with a robot? Her father presents the other alternative, alone and confused and easily taken advantage of in his old age. With a robot, she would never have to worry about such problems, but the fundamental problem remains: is that happiness even real? Or is it merely an illusion?
Premiering at the 71st Berlin International Film Festival in the Competition section, Maren Eggert took home the Silver Bear for the Best Acting Performance. Dan Stevens is particularly impressive as Tom, effusing the character with an innocent charm. His fluent German makes his performance doubly impressive. Ich bin dein Mensch is a clever and evocative romantic comedy with strong performances which you won’t want to miss. (Rose Finlay)