FANTASIA REVIEW: ‘Doppelbänger’ (2020) is a Sci-Fi Film with a Retro Feel

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Doppelbänger shows the ever-present desire for human connection in an increasingly robotic world.

In the world of Doppelbänger, humanity is quickly approaching obsolescence. Everyone has robotic doubles, known as a Doppelsynth, that goes to work for you. They come preprogrammed and charge themselves. George (Gibson Frazier) is a struggling writer with the hope that the robots won’t take over literature for another decade, but he assumes they’re working on it. George is also a sexually frustrated man, using illegally reprogrammed Doppelsynths to satisfy himself. This time the Doppelsynth malfunctions and George has to make the awkward call to the machine’s owner (Annapurna Sriram), hiding the incident from his own Doppelsynth.

Doppelbänger shows the ever-present desire for human connection in an increasingly robotic world. George is an artist at heart, his longing for company comes to a head when he meets the broken robot’s owner, who never gives George her name. Sparks immediately fly between the two as they try and fix the Doppelsynth without getting caught. The bot’s owner used to code Doppelsynths before the robots took over her field, so now she uses her Doppelsynth as a sex worker to make a little extra cash. George is totally unfamiliar with how the Doppelsynths work, and the bot owner explains to him that they are programmed with an ethics code, making the pair scramble to not be caught by his Doppelsynth, George2. Frazier and Sriram have excellent chemistry, both actors work well off each other as the meet-cute between their characters unfolds.

Doppelbänger is more than just a romance, mystery and thrills come alongside the comedic way that George and the bot owner meet each other. The film turns tense when George2 catches on to the situation. Frazier and Sriram each play two roles, as their Doppelsynths are identical replicas of their human characters, but they do an excellent job of showing the differences between themselves and the robots. George2’s eyes are dead and mechanical, while his voice has the classic robotic sound, while the bot owner’s Doppelsynth has different hair and makeup, likely a way for the owner to distance herself from the sex work.

Writer and director Sofian Khan crafts a unique piece of science fiction with Doppelbänger. The film is entirely shot in darkly lit black and white with the exception of when George2 charges himself where the brightness shifts but the colour palette remains muted. Even though robots work for humans in this world, paper money is still used, old school emojis are present on the Doppelsynth technology system, and the set feels like a classic New York apartment. Along with cinematographer Jeffrey Johnson, Khan crafts a future world with a retro feel. While Doppelbänger serves as proof of concept for a series called Autom Reign, as shown by the short film’s open ending, it easily manages to stand well on its own.

Dir: Sofian Khan

Prod: Roy Wol, Pulkitt Datta

Cast: Gibson Frazier, Annapurna Sriram

Premiere Date: 25 August 2020

Available on: Doppelbänger streamed online at Fantasia Fest.