'Robot Dreams' director: Movies are 'finished by the audience'

A fun day at the beach proves disastrous in "Robot Dreams." Photo courtesy of Neon
1 of 5 | A fun day at the beach proves disastrous in "Robot Dreams." Photo courtesy of Neon

LOS ANGELES, June 6 (UPI) -- Pablo Berger said he did not complete his Oscar-nominated animated film, Robot Dreams, now playing in New York and opening in Los Angeles on Friday. Rather, Berger said he expects the audience to complete the film with its own interpretations.

"Movies are never finished by the director," Berger told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "They're finished by the audience."


Based on Sarah Varon's graphic novel, Robot Dreams is the story of a friendship between Dog and Robot. No words are spoken in the film, as there was no dialogue in Varon's novel.

Dog lives in New York in the '80s and orders Robot from an infomercial. They become close friends, but unfortunately Robot runs out of power on the beach.

As the beach closes for the summer, the city will not let Dog back on the beach to retrieve Robot. Dog and Robot dream of reuniting as they each have separate experiences.


"The main theme is memory," Berger said. "It is a love letter to a lot of loved ones who are not with me anymore."

Dog and Robot have happy and sad experiences in the year following their separation. Robot lies frozen on the beach, vulnerable to rabbits who pillage him for spare parts, but makes friends with a family of birds who build their nest on him.

Dog misses Robot the entire time, but has a brief fling with a Duck, whom he discovers does not entirely reciprocate his feelings. Such sequences, Berger said, are intended to provoke emotions in the viewer.

"In a film like Robot Dreams that there is no dialogue, there's a lot of space for the audience to complete the film," he said. "I really hope that the audience that comes to see Robot Dreams has an emotional roller-coaster ride."

Lest viewers wonder about interspecies romances and other logical questions the film raises, Berger said the characters and events of Robot Dreams are metaphorical.

"Robot Dreams is a fable," Berger said. "It's not a literal story."


One of the metaphors that was important to Berger was portraying the importance of human connection, albeit with anthropomorphic animals and machines. Berger said loneliness was a pandemic before COVID-19 caused further isolation.

"We live in the world of Metaverse, avatars, remotes, online, ordering food and things," he said. "The world is so virtual now, so I think we have to get more physical. We have to have more physical contact."

Berger also refrains from judging the obstacles that come between Robot and Dog, saying no good guys or bad guys exist in Robot Dreams, but that people should learn to appreciate the good times.

"Life is about small things," he said. "We wanted to have all those little things that Robot and Dog do in the first act of the film to say how important it is to live in the moment."

During their separation, Robot does meet a new friend, Rascal the Raccoon. Berger said Dog represents Berger in his youth, while Rascal is more like him today.

"Rascal is more mature, more caring," Berger said. "Dog is a little more young and selfish, but I like Dog. He's a nice guy."

Like Vadon's novel, the film offers an ambiguous ending that is sure to tug at heartstrings. Berger said he would neither call it a Hollywood ending nor a sad ending.


"I think it is a satisfying ending," he said. "It's a nontraditional Hollywood ending. It's just surprising and unexpected, but for me, satisfying."

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