Daft Punk’s Electroma: A Quest For Individuality

Daft Punk’s Electroma: A Quest For Individuality

Earlier in 2021, the iconic Daft Punk, the French electronic duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo and Thomas Bangalter, released a short video on their Youtube channel. It was titled “Epilogue”. It featured a scene in which the two music artists, in their trademark helmets, were walking in a desert. One of them explodes. The other one tries killing himself in a gruesome manner. 

This was a scene from their film Electroma (2006). They used this clip to announce the disbandment of Daft Punk. Now, months after their separation, when I look back at their illustrious career, I am tempted to revisit Electroma. Sure, the duo created music that heralded a revolutionary change in the electronic and house music arena. But Electroma is a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece, reminiscent of the French avant-garde cinema. It will remind you of how great of a storyteller Daft Punk was. 

After all, it’s no easy feat to convey a story with no dialogues. Daft Punk’s own album ‘Discovery’ drives the narrative forward. 

Electroma was Daft Punk’s first and last directorial venture, which surprised all when it was first screened in the prestigious Cannes film festival. Electroma is a tough film to watch and you need to have the patience to understand what the movie wants to say. 

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The film is set in a future where there are no more humans on earth and this whole planet is fully dominated by robots. This movie deals with the individuality of the mind and the urge of the mind to think differently from the homogenous set of rules and ideas of the society. In the opening shot of the film, we see two robots driving a car with “Human” written on their name number plate. This is a subtle, playful remark on how badly the two robots want to be associated with humans. These two robots want to show emotions and express their feelings towards each other, just like any normal human being. Or atleast, they wish to pretend so.

Later on, we see the car passing by villages where robots are operating tractors and other robots are walking on the streets. There is not even a single human presence. 

Every robot character is shown to be physically identical to the two main characters, but to represent the differences in ages and genders, they are dressed differently.  When the two robots drive into an urban area, we see the robot kids playing in the park, robots looking like aged persons, reading newspapers in the lawn, robots going for their offices and we even see robots of different genders. The film shows us a kind of analogy where humans are replaced by robots but there is no change in society. It is still monotonous and reacts strongly to any stimulus or change.

Daft Punk’s Electroma: A Quest For Individuality

Robot kids playing in a park in Electroma

The pair of robots drive to a transformation facility, which can change their appearance into more human-like, by pouring liquid latex over their heads. The latex is shaped into human-like faces, prosthetic appliances, and wigs. The resulting look caricatures the members of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. When the two leave the facility, the locals of the town are shocked by their human appearance. The townsfolk gradually begin to chase the duo, whose faces eventually melt in the sun. The two robots take cover in a public restroom where the gold robot discards his ruined mask, then encourages the reluctant silver robot to do the same.

Daft Punk’s Electroma: A Quest For Individuality

Marriage of two robots just like humans. 

After being branded as outcasts, the robots leave the town and walk across the desert for a long period of time. After a point, the silver robot loses hope and stops. When the golden robot sees this, he comes back to him. The silver robot continues to stare at the ground for a while before removing his own jacket. He then walks away from the other robot, showing a switch on his back. He switches it on, which begins a timer. When the countdown ends, the silver robot is blown to pieces. The other robot continues to walk. The gold robot eventually falls to his knees and attempts to reach the switch on his own back, but it can't. Finally, the robot removes his helmet and repeatedly slams it into the ground until the helmet shatters. Using one of the shards as a burning glass, the robot focuses the sunlight to set his hand on fire. The film ends as the other robot, completely on fire, walks through darkness.

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“The whole film is a question,’” Guy Manuel, one of the directors of the film, said after its release. The film gained cult status with time and especially after the retirement of music duo Daft Punk in Feb 2021. 

Daft Punk will be always remembered for their contribution in music but this film shows that they were brilliant in filmmaking also, and were able to produce such gems.

Watch this movie here

Author Biographical Note: The author is pursuing graduation in Physics (Hons) from Ramjas College, University of Delhi, India.  He is working for Explore Screen: The Cognitive Dialogue as an intern. 

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