image by Veronica V. Jones

Aoineko’s Fragile Machine

A pale woman sits with a futuristic city behind her. Large while praying masks adorn the top of a tall skyscraper. A deconstructed form of a woman looms over a small girl.

It takes a peculiar type of person to nurture a story from creative spark to finished presentation. Many try, but precious few succeed in showing us their inner dreams and nightmares. Fragile Machine represents one such triumph of vision, realized by Ben Steele, and his co-creators through their award-winning studio Aoineko.

Somewhere between indie feature animation, and extended music video, the 34 minuteanimation documents the tragedy and redemption of Leda Nea’s experience with an experimental artificial life project. Her emotional and physical transformations are both personal, and indicative of our society’s dilemma as a whole: the spiritual damage caused by rapid technological advances with no regard to the human cost.

Leda’s journey is told through a chaotic mix of candid scenes, captured surveillance footage, and surreal cyber/spiritual experiences. Each of these sources has its own visual flavor, ranging from realistic anime sensibilities to digital psychotic hallucinations. Mr. Steele created not only the characters, but the environments as well — including a complex laboratory, an expansive forest, and even a complete city — each with a particular mood and texture.

While there are brief bits of dialogue throughout the film, Leda’s story is largely driven forward by haunting music and chilling vocals, also created by the Aoineko team. The vocalist, known only as ‘X’, alternately underscores and propels the action mercilessly forward, providing constant insight into Leda Nea’s turbulent emotional progression.

Whatever else you may take away from Fragile Machine, the primary moral is unmistakable: scientific advances applied without a keen understanding of human nature can only result in misery and destruction. Technology may seem a tempting object of worship, but our salvation will not be found in any computer system or digital network. We each need to discover the path to paradise within our own hearts, and then let nothing stand in our way in our efforts to achieve it.

Written by in April of 2005. Last edited September 2014.

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