“TEKNOLUST”— A Collection of Ideas


A Collection of Ideas

Amos Lassen

Writer-director Lynn Hershman-Leeson is a  radical feminist filmmaker and “Teknolust” is her collection of themes and interests through an aesthetic lens. It is

baffling that makes us feel like we’re eaves-dropping. because you haven’t either been expressly The humor is quirky, perverse and intriguing and not in any way traditional. Tilda Swinton stars as Dr. Rosetta Stone, a scientist working to create a new form of techno-organic cloning. She uses her own DNA to create three clones: Marinne, Olive, and Ruby (all played by Swinton). Each clone wears color-coordinated wardrobes to match their names and live in a virtual space that Stone monitors on the glass door of her microwave. All three clones suffer from “low levels of spermatozoa,” a condition whose symptoms include “irritability and loss of consciousness.” Ruby, the most outgoing of the trio, decides to remedy that situation by seducing men using lines of dialogue that Stone feeds her from films. After Ruby beds a man, she takes her target’s sperm, stored in a used condom, boils it and serves it in tea. There’s no rhyme or reason to the film beyond this jumble of a plot. Either you can take it on those terms or you can’t. I am still not sure about my own reaction.

I can appreciate that the clones’ drive to become fully fledged personalities— one clone likes to shop, one wants companionship, and one is a moderate in-between version of the other two girls. There’s something funny, in a conceptually cruel way, about watching a film about using other people to create your identity created by an artist who doesn’t care about substantively developing anything she doesn’t want to. There is something to be said about a film that doesn’t just rattle off a series of ideas ranging from stem cell research to post-femininity. I was laughing with the director until I realized I wasn’t.

The viewer is left to deal with Leeson’s stew of ideas and concepts on his own. I’m sure there’s a metaphor or two in there for the right kind of audience member to latch onto, but sadly, despite her immense talents, Swinton can’t make any of her four characters interesting. Rosetta is a meek, mousy scientist with little to no discernable personality and hazy goals, and the other three, being part robot, are naturally restricted from having much personality.

Perhaps I missed the message of the film as I tried to unravel the movie’s numerous messages. Apparently the world no longer looks at sex as a means to reproduce, which gives weight to Ruby’s trysts and what they mean to a de-sexualized society. The way in which Ruby and her clone-bot sisters interact with people through the internet is also not very well defined because of the microwave as some sort of techno-phone that Stone uses to communicate with the trio. There are throwaway gags and what anyone is supposed to make of these things, much less the film as a whole, is very hard to tell.

Then again, maybe it doesn’t mean anything. In the last few minutes of the film, Leeson’s film comes to a simple conclusion. “Teknolust” might be interesting as a piece of Leeson’s output as an artist, but as a film, it’s a confusion of ideas and metaphors without anything for the viewer to catch onto.