I’ve missed a few weeks in a row but I’m back and hopefully getting this back onto a weekly schedule. But, you know, life being how it is, there’s really no telling. Anyrate, the topic at hand is this very awesome short film.
People are comparing it to WALL-E, which is fair, I suppose, but L3.0 is a very different film. While they’re both quite beautiful and moving, WALL-E is, I believe, about hope, ultimately. L3.0 is more about despair and isolation, and there are very few images as striking as the final ten seconds of this film.
We often talk about earth as being ours. It’s our world. It’s our planet. Our sun, our stars, our lives. But none of these really belong to us. Obviously celestial bodies aren’t ours, but I sometimes think it’s silly that we consider our bodies something that we own. Our body isn’t separate from us, for one thing. Who we are is what we are and our bodies very much define us, whether we’d like to admit it or not. We can change our body in minute ways or drastic ones, but it’s never something separate from us. In changing the body, even only the surface, changes who we are. Our brain houses our personality and that’s a part of our body, yeah? Thinking is a physiological and biological process and the way we think, the thoughts we think, influence our behavior, which further influences the rest of our biology. It’s why people who study math find math simpler than those who don’t [of course people have natural aptitudes to things, but most of those aren’t very significant in most people, and our brain is sort of endlessly plastic, which means we can change it quite drastically, with enough effort] and people who study the arts find it easier to discuss critical theory than they do the theory of thermodynamics. And so we don’t really possess a body. We just are a body. What that body is can be determined by us, to an extent, and that determination can be conscious or unconscious, purposeful of accidental.
Anyrate, that’s a long aside to say that this world doesn’t belong to us and it doesn’t need us and it will go on without us, as shown in L3.0. This is a future Paris, one free of humanity but existing in our ruins. Our memories echo throughout the magnificence but we’re seen nowhere. Perhaps generations have gone by, considering the overgrowth and the crumbling façades. Even all that we build stops belong to us. We leave it for the next generation, but those future generations may not be human. They may not be anything. We may be simply creating elaborate homes for birds, for insects, for squirrels.
But life continues in this humanless Paris. Leo, a robot, writes letters to whoever or whatever remains. It spends his time in the beautiful apartments of Paris, which, presumably, belonged to whoever once owned [there’s that word again] it. It wants only one thing: to play. It writes his letters of invitation and walks them to Montmartre. If you’ve ever been to Paris, a lot of the imagery is quite startling because you’ve probably never seen or imagined it without humans, but there’s something especially beautiful about seeing a naked Montmartre, which is, perhaps, my favorite place in the city, which makes it one of my favorite places on the planet. Leo sends his letters as paper airplanes into the city and watches as they drift and fall away.
But he finds life there. Not the kind that can read his letters or who will ever care that he wrote anything at all, but the kind that exists in transient beauty. A butterfly, flitting through the air, dazzling the robotic eyes.
It takes it home and puts it behind glass and only watches.
This is, perhaps, the enjoyment of machines, but how different is it for many pet owners? You hear so many nightmares of pet ownership and often people will blame the dog or cat for tearing up their home, for being insane and annoying. These humans refuse to look inward or examine how unnatural and incorrect it is to house a dog in 1,000 square feet of space. An animal that descended from wolves, which need a territory measured in square kilometers. If your dog is acting like an insane animal, the fault is yours.
And perhaps Leo learnt this behavior of possession from the humans who once created it, who once kept it as a family member or pet or toy. To play and love is to possess, and so Leo simply possesses and observes.
Leo creates an origami likeness of the butterfly and then, eventually, the butterfly dies, as they must, but especially when housed helplessly in a foodless loveless cage.
Leo discards the biomatter that was the butterfly. The body dies, limply, and becomes useless to the owner and only the created likeness remains and is given a place of prominence.
And as we pan over, we discover other creatures growing in complexity. Other insects and then birds and mammals, and finally we see all the collected origamied creatures, many of which resemble humans.
Leo is the collector of all that it once possessed, or all that is past. There are on remnants of the creatures but the paper folded into their likeness.
L3.0 is both beautiful and harrowing and it rattles in your head, changing the way you breath and think about who and what we are, where we belong, and what life is, what all these possessions amount to.