Don’t reach for the stars. However, you can use them for guidance. With Mr Robot, author and director Sam Esmail presents a work which, with regard to its narrative and skilled craftsmanship, rejects all mediocrity.
The fictive series tells the story of a computer hacker who loves dogs and wants to deliver the world from evil. Sponsored films and corporate decision-makers can also profit from the film lessons learnt in Mr. Robot, using moving images for marketing and communication.
1. Camera work
If you want to break the rules, you must know them. This premise is not only valid for protagonist Elliot Alderson, who is ingeniously personified in his series, but also for Tod Campell’s and Tim Ives’ camera work. Their selection of the image details is concise and stylistic, supports every second of the storytelling, while the camera remains magically discrete and unobtrusive. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (2013), Sean Penn says: Beautiful things don’t ask for attention. Mr Robot proves his point.
2. Music and sound design
Since the feature film “Trainspotting” (1996), I have waited for a feature film which once again proves to me that music and sound design are not natural enemies, but brothers in arms. Mr Robot isn’t a feature film. But Mac Quayle, responsible for the music, need not fear a comparison with Hollywood for a second and makes the series music to the ears. If you have ever questioned how much music and sound design can achieve for moving images, you can find the answer here. And, if you as a film-maker and creative person have already grappled with the question as to when and where and why and for how long music should be used, this series is an absolute must for you. Full stop.
More stunning than in real life because, ultimately, nobody wants to see reality? That is history. The Mr Robot cast consists of people who you could run into during the course of a normal working day or on the way home. The only distinguishing feature between the actors, normal people and next door neighbours is their talent, which sometimes leaves you speechless. And this talent is brought to life by the actors, primarily by Rami Malek (in the role of Elliot Alderson), Carly Chaikin (Darlene), Portia Doubleday (Angela Moss) and Martin Wallström (Tyrell Wellick) thanks to an extremely differentiated depiction of character.
Great narrators know that it is not what is mentioned in a story that counts but a considerable share is also included in what is deliberately not addressed. The narrative setting of gaps belongs to the most sophisticated part of the art of film, making equal demands on scriptwriters, producers and cutters.
Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world. Elliot Alderson (aka Mr Robot)
The team behind Mr Robot has an enviably masterful command of handling gaps. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the omissions also play a dramaturgically very important role in the storyline.
5. Use of voice-over
Voice-over is often confused with glue. Either the voice out of nowhere is intended to provide a film with greater depth as an additional narrative level or, even worse, take hold of the audience’s hands and guide them through the film, mostly because fear is victorious in making characters or storylines understood without the use of voice-over. Where used correctly, voice-over is an additional film actor. An actor, however, who doesn’t physically stand in front of the camera, but whose motivation and function perfectly matches the concert of action. How this requirement is not only ingeniously met, but is also finally lead ad absurdum, is demonstrated by Mr Robot with an ease in the light of which you simply have to take your hat off.
6. Narrative perspective
Every story is told consciously or unconsciously from a perspective. Following the explanations above, it comes as no huge surprise that the authors’ team for Mr Robot under Sam Esmail’s management has structured the series in such a way, that the narrative perspective no longer exists at the end of the first sequel. If you have already seen the series, you will understand why.
Highly acclaimed by the critics, in german speaking countries, the digital redemption of Mr Robot could so far only be seen at the Cologne Conference and the Zurich Film Festival. The format started this summer in the USA. Starting on November 20th, the series will be available online in German-speaking countries on Amazon Prime Instant Video both in the original English version and a German-speaking synchronised version.