When you go over your typical program (not that the program for Fantasia is typical as it is better than most) for a film festival you select different films to go see for different reasons. Some might feature a director or an actor whose work you like while another might be of a genre that you fancy. That being said, none of those reasons are why I selected The Mechanical Bride. Basically I chose it because it seemed like a documentary about a bunch of weird people with a weird fetish. After seeing the very well done film I have to say that Miss de Fren’s work resulted with me having changed my mind about these people (not a complete 180, but a change) and having learned a hell of a lot about the subject.
Did you know that for a mere $6,000 you can buy yourself the crème de la crème of custom made doll from a company named, of course, RealDoll? Well, you can and the sex doll or real doll industry is becoming bigger and bigger. This documentary by director Allison de Fren is about the people around the world (we go to the United States, Germany and Japan) who buy, make and repair these dolls along with others from different companies and a little bit about the technology behind them.
Much about the film with its assertion that it is not so weird that men (and it is mostly men) buy these dolls and have relationships with them because nowadays there are a lot of women who are made of the same silicone as the dolls. It became a conundrum that ran through my head for a lot of the documentary. A kind of chicken and egg puzzle. Did women begin making themselves look like dolls first or did they do it once they became aware that men were attracted to that look? A question to be pondered.
In today’s world with plastic surgery, silicone breast implants, Botox, and all kinds of other cosmetic surgery women have used these means in an effort to become the “perfect” woman. You would have to think that if most of them are honest that the reason they do all this costly and dangerous surgery is not for themselves rather it is to be seen as attractive to men. What the documentary made me realize is that this is all for naught unless the women also have their vocal chords removed as what the dolls will always have on them is that they are silent and do whatever their owners want them to do. They never complain or refuse. A big advantage!
Maybe that is why one of the main subjects in the film loves his doll so much. He can dress her as he wishes even make love to her when and how he wants to. Davecat, a Goth male from the United States, has had a long term relationship with his doll who he’s named Sidore Kuroneko. They do everything together and Davecat even states in one part that is he was to ever have a relationship with an organic woman she would have to accept that Sidore is part of his life. In other words, Sidore stays. He has even gone so far as to decide that when he dies that he and his doll will be cremated together and half of the ashes will be sprinkled in Japan and half in the U.S. Now, reading this many of you will be thinking that this guy is certifiable. And admittedly he is quite something and loves to perform. What the film makes you see is that he is not crazy rather he is a man who is a technosexual. Meaning he is turned on by technology. This is demonstrated to not be so rare or so strange.
de Fren goes beyond simply looking at sex dolls or dolls, she also investigates the technology and the idea of robot women. Robots have always intrigued. They have also for probably the same amount of time aroused. From Fritz Lang’s Metropolis a robot in the shape of a woman has been seen as fascinating and something to be examined. Science fiction has for a long time featured tales of sexualized female robots.
The Mechanical Bride is a history lesson into the image of woman and the way through the ages that men have tried to create their vision of the perfect female form. Whether it is the sculpture of the Venus de Milo or a silicone doll it all adds up to the same thing. The idealized female form.
Everything about The Mechanical Bride has been well thought out. Not surprising as at the screening de Fren told us she spent ten years making the film. Even the smallest detail has been thought of. For instance, with her tongue planted very firmly in cheek, Julie Newmar (an actress who portrayed a female robot in the television series My Living Doll) is the narrator of the film.
Bravo to de Fren for making such a non judgemental film about a subject that just cries for all kinds of harsh opinions and a slanted viewpoint. The subjects of her film in no way become jokes. She has also succeeded in showing us that the lines between reality and fantasy have really become blurred. What is means to be a man or a woman and even a robot/called into question by this film. The relationships, and these are really relationships, that these men have with their dolls is at times sad, touching, incomprehensible, funny, but always human.