Invention of Love by Andrey Shushkov is a beautiful film in silhouette. It begins as a very simple story of love but develops into quite a bit more. There’s some wonderful steampunkery happening here, which is something I’ve always been partial to. I think it rarely comes off right because I think too many make it about the aesthetic and sort of force in the element, but Shushkov keeps it simple here, and that simplicity becomes a sort of madness, which causes the film to shift in huge ways a few times throughout the film.
It creates a very interesting sensation and it demands the viewer to come to terms with some very radical ideas.
I believe this film is about obsession and also our technological world, where technological progress is associated with human progress.
I think that idea is at the center here. That constantly pushing forward and developing and innovating are associated with the greatest aspects of humanity. The film forces us to look at these assumptions and what they may mean.
It begins simply enough. Girl meets boy riding mechanical horse. I don’t know if there’s ever been a more impressive way to meet anyone ever. Just riding around on your own invention like it’s no big deal.
She’s impressed and they gradually fall in love, getting married. He then takes her away from the world she knew, which is very much a Victorian seeming world. It’s something that’s easy to miss when watching because we’re not expecting their new home to be so radically different. Where her home is very much a world that exists within nature, the world that he takes her to is one nearly divorced from nature.
It’s a word of mechanisation, of science and engineering, and this is at the center of every aspect of their lives. Everything from the plants to animals to homes are mechanised marvels, and it’s a strange sort of utopia, all these brilliant creators living and creating together, transforming the world we’ve inherited into the world they want. It exists on the assumption that everything can be improved and, perhaps, that the world is inherently flawed or at least imperfect.
Upon entering such a place, disillusionment sets in. She loves the man, but she also loves the world she knew. She loves the plants and animals, the dirt and the sky.
This city sits in a cloud of steam and smoke, it stands above a desert of soot. Though impressive, it’s not what she wants. It’s not what she ever wanted.
The impressive nature of his creations and machines caught her attention. They brought her close to him, and love followed. But it’s clear that she didn’t expect his entire world to be these machines.
This film feels so relevant. So bright and alive and important, since I very much think we’re in a similar world. We murder the planet for the sake of progress. We destroy the biosphere, the global ecology to improve human life, to make it more convenient, to make it more impressive. We’re building ephemeral pyramids out of the children of the third world and the very world we live in.
But the film goes deeper than simply demonising progress, because what could be more absurd? As much as I think we’re murdering the planet, I am genuinely and constantly excited about technological progress, and I think it may be the only way out of this centuries long nightmare we’re creating, but we’ve done enormous amounts of damage unthinkingly. We try to bend the world to our will, but the world has no desire to be at our disposal. We’ll bleed it dry, but it will be us who die.
The earth will go on, as it always has, as it did long before us.
And this technological world kills her. Without the sun, the grass, the fresh air, she dies, polluted.
But it’s not so simple. Life never is. It’s not that technology is evil or wrong or even incorrect. I think that’s a pretty hard case to make with any seriousness, and it’s not what’s made here. With the loss of her, he becomes obsessed, possessed, and he does the only thing he knows how to do: he creates.
But first, he smashes.
And he smashes good.
He smashes all his machines, perhaps realising what he did to the beauty he found.
But then he tries to bring her back, one cog at a time. His love doesn’t end with Death, and Death is not the end. He must live, but he doesn’t need to live without her.
Or so he thinks.
He creates her new. A machine to resemble the person she was.
But this is no solace, for she can never return. She’s gone, and though her image remains, it’s not who and what she was.
And when we ruin this earth, we will not be able to bring it back. It will not be the world we knew.
There will be no wolves, no lions, no bees. There will likely be no humans, and we won’t recognise the place we’ve always called home.
Though technology doesn’t save him or her, it does give him hope, albeit fruitless.
I find it beautiful, really. These are my favorite kind of love stories. They may end tragically, but they show us the strength and gorgeous nature of love.
Love doesn’t end. It just changes.
And though he lost the one he loved, he didn’t lose his love. It will burn inside him forever, and it may even kill him, but he will always hold her inside, and he will never stop trying to recreate her.