Electric Dreams (1984)

Article 4576 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-11-2014
Directed by Steve Barron
Featuring Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield
Country: USA / UK
What it is: Science fiction romance

A nerdy architect buys a computer to keep himself organized. A freak accident causes the computer to become sentient, and when it begins making music for a beautiful female cellist who has moved to a floor above, she thinks it’s the architect and initiates a romance with him. The architect tries to hide the truth from her, but the computer is intent on meeting the woman, and it’s gaining power…

I’m not sure what it would have been like to have seen this movie when it was new, but watching it now is somewhat akin to entering another dimension, especially when one considers how the computer works in comparison with current computer technology. It has the primitive look and graphics of computers from the eighties, but it has a working touch screen, is capable of running all of the appliances in the house, is capable of independently composing music, emulates human speech, etc. In its time, these innovations would have probably been considered sheer fantasy, but when I look at what computers are capable of doing nowadays, the movie seems suddenly prescient. As for the story itself, in some ways it’s as old as the hills; it’s a love triangle in which one point consists of a sentient computer. Part of me feels this movie shouldn’t work, but I end up quite liking the characters (particularly Virginia Madsen’s cellist character), and I find myself caring quite a bit what happens to them. The music by Giorgio Moroder is actually quite good, and I did recognize the hand of ELO leader Jeff Lynne in a couple of the compositions. In the end, I liked this one much more than I thought I would, but at least part of that is the fascination of seeing a movie from thirty years ago envisioning the future of computing. Incidentally, Bud Cort supplies the voice for the computer.


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