In Sophie Barthes’ third feature, the sci-fi satire “The Pod Generation,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, the French-born director explores AI, commodification, motherhood and our relationship with both technology and nature. As well as criticizing progress, consumerism and our way of life.
“The Pod Generation”, which Barthes wrote and produced was Alfred P. Sloane’s feature film is award-winning, and follows Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a New York couple who are ready to take their relationship to the next level. Take it to the next level and start a family, begin the pregnancy journey with a detachable artificial womb.
“However we envision technology, it should be here to help us, but I actually think it’s disconnecting us from our instincts,” Barthes told Variety. “We now believe so much that technology can do so much for us. But then whenever we sacrifice something for convenience, we lose a part of ourselves as human beings.”
The idea of the “Pod Generation” came to Barthes in a “surreal dream” when she was pregnant with her first child some 13 years earlier, “going through childbirth in New York was so surreal. It’s seen almost as a disease; to celebrate motherhood.” Instead you have to get over the pregnancy as if it was a disadvantage or something and the fact that being pregnant is a powerful thing that gives you an incredible experience,” she says.
She added: “I was like: ‘Well, maybe it would be very convenient not to be nine months pregnant and be like men, project the thing and pay for it and it’s all taken care of.’ But what are we losing as women in the process? I’m not saying that women shouldn’t get pregnant if they don’t want to, but you’re losing the fact that it’s a huge power to give birth, and I think men actually have a kind of jealousy. [of that]”
All the VFX technology for the film was created by Brussels-based VFX company Benuts. Driven by his love of “handmade” sci-fi seen in the films of Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, and Charlie Kaufman, all of whom he admired, the film pods had “little technical input” and were largely made in-camera. In terms of aesthetics, Barths opted for a feminine approach, saying that “a lot of science fiction is very masculine. It’s usually very rectangular and it’s all white or all black, and I wanted to make sci-fi where there were pastel colors and where the shapes were round. was,” he says, adding that he drew inspiration from the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s curvy designs. as well as the French Cubist painter Marie Laurencin and the American Modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe “because I love her color palette and many of her flowers I think are metaphors for the womb and the womb.”
Different generations – Millennials, X, Z, etc. – as well as New York City’s pods during the pandemic when people came up with the idea for the film title “Podded”, which the director felt was “egg” in development. “What will happen to this next generation? Because everything in the film is in a pod – nature is in a pod, children are in a pod…,” she asks.
Barthes says he has done a lot of research on AI and is “quite obsessed with it and our relationship with it”, which is why his next project about AI is also in the pipeline, a “surreal biopic” about the American realist painter Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine, Grasshopper.
Producers are Nadia Comlicchi, Genevieve Lemal, Ian Zeno and Martin Metz for Quad Films and Scope Pictures. MK2 handles international sales, co-representing US sales with CAA Media Finance.