kosmOS short film review

★★★

Directed by: #DanielButler

Written by: #DanielButler

Starring: #DanielButler

Film Review by: Lawrence Bennie

I’m often struck by how 21st century technology is increasingly able to place almost all society's wants and needs at our fingertips. With the invention of apps, virtual libraries, archives and cutting-edge technology have been delivered to the palm of our hands, downloadable in seconds. Apps to help you research into your family history, the Sega classics of yesteryear and endless others are waiting in the App Store, ready for use straight from your pocket for a couple of quid. What’s next? A program that scans and reads your cat’s body language to show you what exactly he or she is thinking, feeling and learning?


kosmOS begins with such a premise – that adapted software can read and translate the physical actions of a cat into coherent, audible English. Intrigued to find out exactly what his beloved cat (Kosmos, of course) is thinking, ingenious host Dan introduces us to an online program that converts live camera imports to sound files. Without hesitation, Dan wires things up so that the cat’s facial and body movements are soon deciphered. Remarkably, Dan’s noble efforts pay off. With everything in place, Dan begins talking to the cat and the system responds for Kosmos. However, when changes are made, things then become hairy.


Admittedly, one comes into kosmOS with the lines somewhat blurred between reality and fantasy. As Dan dabbles into the workings of real-life web platform TensorFlow, reads up on cat intelligence in Wikipedia and installs his collection of cameras all over his house, we can’t help but feel that we’re actually witnessing animal translation technology creeping into the domestic world. Sure enough, the thinly veiled illusion is revealed as we are introduced to Kosmos 2.0. Soon, the firewalled feline offers his opinions on Dan’s guitar-playing and even his own existential thinking (“What do I want? What do I need?’). From here, it’s sci-fi all the way as the intrepid Dan hooks Kosmos up with AI and directly communicates with him in virtual reality. The nutty professor then pushes Kosmos further with the philosophical pussy becoming increasingly intelligent. Sound familiar? We’ve gone from mockumentary to The Lawnmower Cat but doesn't do justice to poor Kosmos. He doesn’t mow lawns and, in fact, he’s no longer just a cat. “It’s almost like you’re becoming a person”, Dan observes.


Unsurprisingly, as in The Lawnmower Man, it isn’t soon before Kosmos becomes fully absorbed into ethernet eternity, and this is where Butler really does dazzle. We become lost in a marvellous montage of special effects and virtual trickery, whilst an ominous, more cinematic score sweeps the soundtrack. We’ve suddenly gone to something more akin to The Fly. The shots and tone get darker and darker. In a surprisingly eerie scene, the hapless Daniel searches for Kosmos in the dark, the sound of his ghostly purrs the only trace of him left in the physical world.


In kosmOS, the scientific fantasies of Dan do indeed come to life. But his work has created a duality of two concurrent truths; this perfect system wants a harmony of forward and reverse reactions, occurring equally. Ultimately, it’s not what he, or Kosmos, want after all. Home turns out preferable to a state of equilibrium.


Certainly smarter, and more sophisticated, than it perhaps first appears, kosmOS is certainly an oddity. Slow-paced in its near 32 minutes, there’s a worry that the technical brilliance of Butler, which emerges later on in the film, might be overlooked. The end product might not be a must-see piece but Butler’s talents in on-screen computer wizardry certainly shouldn’t go unnoticed.


#LawrenceBennie


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