(Originally published July 20, 2022 by Isaac Payne)
In general, science fiction movies tend to err on the weirder side of media, and that’s just a fact of their nature. But, there are some weird movies on Netflix that fit too nicely in the sci-fi genre, and Bigbug is at the forefront of those films.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet has developed a reputation as a science fiction writer and director. Over the course of his career, he’s imagined many futuristic worlds, some bleak, some optimistic. His first feature film, Delicatessen (1991) takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where famine has ravaged much of the population. His characters live above a delicatessen, and are picked off by the butcher who runs the shop, eventually turned into meaty treats.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet was even the director or Alien Resurrection, and his film Amélie was nominated for a few Academy Awards.
Suffice to say that he’s a pretty established guy, and Bigbug is his first feature film to come out in the past 10 years.
Bigbug stars Isabelle Nanty, Elsa Zylberstein, Claude Perron, Stéphane De Groodt, and Youssef Hajdi, among others. The film received lackluster reviews, including a 5.7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and an even lower score on Metacritic.
Despite this, I found the film to be profoundly interesting, both visually and narratively, as well as quite odd. Here’s a brief summary of the plot:
Alice, a suburban mother and artist, lives in a smart home that’s equipped with multiple different robots, some of which are designed for cleaning, others act as maids. When the film starts, we see Alice flirting with Max, a man who pretends to take interest in her artistic endeavors and her bookish nature.
As the story continues, many other characters come into the house, including the neighbor, Alice’s ex-husband and his girlfriend, and Alice’s daughter, Nina. Once all the characters are inside the house, the systems AI, Nestor, locks the doors, citing code C4 because the outside danger level surpassed acceptable limits.
On the news, the characters see a terrible traffic jam, due to automated car malfunctions. And frequently, the television will play the show Homo Ridiculous, which features humans in humiliating situations for the Yonyx clones. The Yonyx are a group of intelligent, violent, AI clones that despise humans.
Most of the movie revolves around the characters trying to get out of the house, while the robots working to please their human counterparts by searching for what it means to be human.
Eventually, things come to a head when the Yonyx show up, but I won’t ruin the ending for you!
What’s So Weird About Bigbug?
Bigbug has a bit of a weird feeling to it for a few reasons. First, it was originally in French, but I watched the English dub on Netflix. The voices and the lips of the characters didn’t match up, which made the whole thing rather trippy, especially since there is supposed to be a big contrast between the robots and AI and the humans. But with the dub, it makes everyone feel a bit like a glitching robot.
Another element of the film that was confusing–and somewhat uncomfortable at times–was the sexual overtones. Pretty much all the of the characters, aside from one or two, were driven by sexual urges, and often ended up being sexually frustrated. Alice and Max spend most of the movie skirting around other characters trying to have sex, while Nina and Max’s son, Leo, have a similar relationship.
Even the robots get oddly sexual. Monique, the maid-AI, follows around Max trying to be seductive like Alice, and the whole thing just comes off as cringy.
I think that the sexual nature of the film helps to portray the humans as driven by instinct, which gives them an animalistic feeling. When contrasted with the Yonyx, who are hard, smart, and cold, the humans just feel kind of lame and useless without their technology.
And that hunts at one of the larger themes of the film, which is whether or not humans are important in a world where robots and AI are ten times smarter, faster, and more efficient than humans.
It’s a common theme in science fiction, dating all the way back to the 1920s and even something that we are seeing unfold before our very eyes, with things like Google’s AI and Blake Lemoine’s leaked interview.
The key takeaway from Bigbug is veiled behind flashy suburbanite futurisms and sexual desire. Its message is simply that humans are lucky. Despite their flaws and their antics, their technologies eventually get too smart for their own good. Some might even say that our saving grace is that we’re simple creatures! And being simple isn’t always a bad thing.
So despite being just a weird movie on Netflix, Bigbug shows us that the more complex we become, the more problems we encounter. What’s wrong with reading books, practicing calligraphy, and drinking vodka shots? Seems like a good way to pass the time to me.