Unconscious Figures and Otherness: The Case of Ex Machina



Dovalis J & Izod J (2021) Unconscious Figures and Otherness: The Case of Ex Machina. Psychological Perspectives, 64 (2), pp. 254-272.

The core dynamic of Alex Garland’s Ex Machina centers on three characters. Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), a mogul of insatiable appetites, owns and controls BlueBook, an online social media corporation comparable to Google or Facebook. Nathan possesses a narcissistic personality structure, which disturbs a healthy curiosity into the inner life and the capacity to self-reflect. Obsessed by the ambition to invent post-human intelligence, he has built a succession of AI creatures, all simulacra of glamorous women. Each is imprisoned, enslaved by her inventor; furthermore, each has been constructed by cannibalizing the body parts of her predecessors. Ava (Alicia Vikander) is the latest in that line. Ex Machina portrays the collective problems of our current times powerfully when Nathan summons Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a bright and easily influenced BlueBook employee, to run the Turin test on Ava. Although the mechanical and electronic structures of her body are unmistakable, his desire to make her his lover soon overwhelms him. As an orphan, Caleb has a trauma history that makes him susceptible to the seductive demands of Nathan’s type of personality. Ultimately, both men’s personal Shadow problems are enacted in their contact with Ava as their distorted relationship with the feminine reaches its denouement. In this paper, we attempt to engage via Ex Machina with concepts that frequently occur in creation myths. Marie-Louise von Franz (1995) regarded such myths as the deepest and, most important of all, belonging to a different class than fairy tales or hero myths, for when they are told, there is always a certain solemnity that gives them a central importance; they convey a mood which implies that what is said will concern the basic patterns of existence, something more than is contained in other myths (p. 1). We find creation myths whenever the unconscious is preparing for an important progressive step in consciousness.

Psychological Perspectives: Volume 64, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online31/12/2021
Date accepted by journal27/12/2021

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Professor John Izod
Professor John Izod

Professor Emeritus, Communications, Media and Culture