Theater of Cruelty

A puppet life 

Silicone Soul
Regissør: Melody Gilbert

Could you consider establishing a long-term love relationship with a silicone doll? Melody Gilbert's thought-provoking documentary explores the relationship between humans and puppets, and as a spectator you are slowly drawn into an exercise in human empathy and compassion.


Everyone longs for intimacy, love and togetherness. Trying to realize these ideals can be a lifelong quest, and if you succeed, it can be equally difficult to make it last. But what happens if you not should succeed – at least not in the traditional way? What if your longings are aimed at something so strange that the surroundings have difficulty accepting them? 

In his latest film Silicone Soul Melody Gilbert explores the lives and experiences of people who find love, comfort and companionship in human-like silicone dolls. And instead of calling these people crazy and screwed up, the director manages to portray them without appearing judgmental. The result is a glimpse into a world where loneliness is at the center, and the basic human need for connection and love.  


Silicone Soul is a mix of interviews, everyday scenes and animated sequences where the underlying question is constantly: How can a doll make sense of a person's life? 

This is something the main characters hardly have the time (or courage) to investigate. Therefore, as a search for answers, Gilbert's film becomes both profound and complex, and does Silicone Soul into an exercise in human empowerment. 

The film touches on the theme of technology and the question of human lifekbending robots can become life companions. 

Other films, too, have themed unconventional human-doll relationships, but often not in the same caring and prejudiced way. An exception is Dream Girl (2018) – a short and moving documentary by Oliver Schwartz. The film follows the daily life of a man who has a girlfriend. 

The fiction film Lars and the Real Girl (with Ryan Gosling) talks about male vulnerability and a society that defies both prejudice and agonizing emotions to play with the comforting illusions of the film's main character. Any spectator understands that the doll symbolizes what he longs for, but has never been able to find in another living person. 

However, the man-and-doll theme is a gold mine for speculative shows as well Guys and Dolls, an American television documentary looking for the deviant and fetishist
tical in the portraits of men's portraits. One of them, Davecat – who lives with both his wife and mistress – both puppets – is also portrayed in Gilbert's film, as well as in an episode of the TV channel TLC's My Strange Addicition. 

Gilbert's great merit lies both in the humble approach to the world she explores and in that she goes beyond the sexual theme. Other relationships between dolls and humans are also investigated; we will see, among other things, how silicone babies can give comfort to dementia and how a silicone doll helps a couple through difficult times. 

The film also shows how the dolls, which are consistently perfectly proportioned and "beautiful" in various ways, can be transformed into art. An example is the photos of Stacy Leigh, a photographer with a strong doll fascination, who explores her own unmet needs for female friendship through her work.

Robot as a partner

By using different angles of view expands Silicone Soul the conversation about the human-human surrogate relationship from just talking about sex to talking about the other functions the puppets can have – also emotionally. And as the perspectives become wider, the camera also breaks through the perfect fantasy imagination the dolls seem to embody. The silicone struggles, shares collapses, textures change, and imperfections appear – things that pause for a while fetishism and sexual associations. 

That the dolls also have defects brings this fantasy world a little closer to reality and gives a tender sting to the story: Like their human partners, the dolls also age. 

Like their human partners, the dolls also age.

Towards the end of the movie touch Silicone Soul also topics such as technological development and artificial intelligence, and opens the question of whether human-like robots can act as life companions in the future. With software that allows interaction and an expanded register of action in today's silicone dolls, this is not an unimaginable scenario. 

But this part of the movie is mostly a distraction – Silicone Soul feels rich and rounded without. However, the film leaves to its audience to decide on the theme. Whatever the point of view, the understanding of the portraits and their puppet relationships will be expanded by the end of the film. All in all, it is an exercise in empathy that will turn any curious looking into a compassionate witness. 

Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Nita is a freelance journalist and critic for Ny Tid.

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