Character driven sci-fi short film ‘Doppelbänger‘ grabs your attention by throwing a sex-scene-gone-wrong at its audience, before delving into the ethical aspects of changing the primary functions of robots in our society.

George’s Sia-wig wearing sexbot starts malfunctioning mid-coïtus, which forces him to contact its creator, Pria. Reluctant to pick up the phone, in case the authorities might be on the other side of her video screen, she shows her face, which is similar to that of the bot that’s still lifeless in his bed. Not so unusual, since everyone now has a robot that’s basically a copy of yourself. These robots take over daily tasks, such as going to work and helping out around the house, while you… have sex with a machine – at least that’s the case for George (Gibson Frazier – Amazon Original ‘Hunters‘). We find out more about Pria (Annapurna Sriram – ‘Give or Take‘) and George, when she comes over to take a deeper look at her bot, but what they don’t realise is that George² is secretly keeping an eye on them, while they assume he’s just charging his batteries…

Doppelbänger‘ is a surprisingly well thought-through short film. Starting with the A+ neon-lit title card, the electronic sounds of whirring while George tries to reset his bot is a nice little touch of sound design that doesn’t go unnoticed. With pleasing black and white cinematography, the lighting creates a great sense of atmosphere, lifting up the simple yet effective set design. There are some flashes of colour to accentuate a certain kind of ominous calmness, but we never really get a clear explanation on why these scenes are the way the are. Cue Simon Taufique‘s score, and we have a winner of a short film, ladies, gentlemen and non-binary friends.

Director/writer Sofian Khan (‘The Interpreters‘), tells his story with a precise sense of timing and world-building, never skipping a beat and rather focusing on its characters than on exploitative imagery. Sriram’s Pria comes across a bit snarky at first, but living in a world where all eyes are on you because you’re contributing to illegal sex work and in which humans barely interact, this seems like rather natural behaviour. Sriram and Frazier both give the best performance possible with was given to them, which isn’t always easy when establishing chemistry in a short film.

Doppelbänger is the prime example of a short film that would work perfectly as a tv-series or feature length sci-fi romantic thriller. A perfect little gem that works both narratively as visually, on every single level.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Doppelbänger‘ will screen as part of Fantasia International Film Festival’s International Science-Fiction Short Film Showcase 2020 on Tuesday, August 25 at 5pm. Buy your tickets HERE

Fantasia International Film Festival Short Film Review – ‘Doppelbänger’

Reviewed online (screening as part of Fantasia International Film Festival), August 20, 2020. Running time: 15 min.

PRODUCTION: A Capital K Productions production. Producer: Pulkit Datta. Executive producer: Roy Wol.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Sofian Khan. Cinematography: Jeffrey Johson. Music: Simon Taufique.

WITH: Gibson Frazier, Annapurna Sriram.

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