NIGHTSTREAM 2021- “King Car” and the Unhealthy Intimacy Between Man & Machine: Film Review

Since the dawn of time, the human race has been intrinsically connected to technology. From the first hammer all the way to highly complex machinery, society has advanced and prospered thanks to our tools. However, what happens when our tech grows beyond our means? Renata Pinheiro’s King Car provides a pre-dystopian look at the dangers humanity faces in the wake of exponential technological growth

The plot of King Car starts rather simply. Uno (Luciano Pedro Jr.) is a typical teenager who has the ability to communicate with cars, particularly King Car, the worn out taxi sedan Uno was born in. When the Zero KM law, which bans all vehicles that are older than 15 years from hitting the road, goes into effect in his small town, Uno teams up with his eccentric uncle, Zé (Matheus Nachtergaele) to make over junkyard cars into luxury, talking automobiles. Had Pinheiro stopped there, King Car might have resembled a quirky, lost entry in the Herbie, The Love Bug franchise.

However, Pinheiro delves deeper into automotive autonomy through the anthropomorphic King Car. When King Car is finally given a voice so that others (besides Uno) can hear him, we witness the car’s rediscovery of the world. He gets to feel the wind in his fender again, the sweet taste of blue gasoline, and the sensual embrace of a woman gyrating on his roof. Between the humanization of King Car and the apparent vehicular genocide of the Zero Km law, we, along with Uno, begin to sympathize for KITT-with-a-heart car.

As the film begins to unfold in the second half, Pinheiro allows the societal implications of artificial intelligent vehicle in relation to the human race to rise to the forefront. We the audience are forced to grapple with the idea that maybe at a certain point, technology actually inhibits human growth. Or as Zé puts it, “Are we now just machines, and the technology we make is our offspring?” It’s one of many questions that have no easy answers in the beautifully constructed King Car.

The Silver Lining

The scene in which we are introduced to King Car’s disciples translates the film’s message of humanity’s technological dependency without a single word being uttered. As each of the vehicle’s pit crew drink the blue gasoline Kool-Aid, their bodies stiffen and move like toy robots. As King Car enters the garage, the disciples get on their knees with the camera looking up at the majestic vehicle. This indicates that King Car has quite literally become royalty in the eyes of his followers. The entire range of motion and choreography from the disciples resembles that of an elaborate music video, except with far more disturbing implications.

King Car is coming soon to a screen near you.

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