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ex machina

Posted on January 22, 2016

Short Cuts: Ex Machina and Dracula?

Dawn Keetley

Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015) has obvious gothic roots. The eccentric Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), who creates artificially intelligent female “robots” in his isolated compound is a clear descendent of both Frankenstein and Doctor Moreau. A less obvious forebear for the film, though, is Dracula (both Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel and Tod Browning’s 1931 film).

The frame above is centered on programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), who has been whisked by helicopter to Nathan’s compound after supposedly winning a competition. In actuality, he’s there to perform the Turing test on Nathan’s latest creation.

The opening of the film is replete with references to Dracula. As the helicopter pilot drops Caleb seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Caleb protests, “You’re leaving me here?” The pilot replies, “This is as close as I’m allowed to get to the building”—which evokes Renfield’s unceremonious abandonment at the Borgo Pass in Browning’s film, as the driver refuses to get any closer to Count Dracula’s castle.

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