Avarya

Steeped in art deco elegance and ornate designs, Avarya is a visually rich addition to one of science fiction's longest ongoing converstions—one that has only gotten more urgent since it began nearly a century ago.

On old man in a white shirt, green vest and red tie speaks to an ornate, single-eyed robot. Behind them there is a wall of bookshelves densely packed with beautiful hard-backed books.

Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics have been a rich source of material for writers of speculative fiction. First proposed in a 1942 short story that was later reprinted in Asimov's I Robot collection, they're more a thought experiment than a law, a hardwired moral code to prevent the invention of robots (or artificial intelligences, although that term wasn't in common use 80 years ago) from dooming us to a killbot hellscape.

Distilling a bullet-proof moral code into a few easy to parse rules is no easy task, especially when you're trying to prevent against both rogue AIs and humans with nasty intentions, but Asimov's rules read well at a glance:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Solid as they seem, Asimov spent decades finding novel loopholes in his Foundation series, and countless other writers have taken up the task since then. And now we can add Gökalp Gönen to the list of artists who've found unique versions of Hell that seem entirely allowed within the framework of the Three Laws. There's no malevolence involved, just good intentions, advanced technology, and an overly broad definition of harm.

Avarya is one of those films that are best approached with as little knowledge as possible. Even the official synopsis (in the Film Details below) gives away more than it probably should. The absolute basics are that the film follows an old man and a robot who are alone together in a spaceship that resembles a dusty old library. Together, they're searching for a suitable new planet for the human to live on now that Earth is no longer an option; the film's title translates to "average," presumably in reference to the pleasant, free-of-extremes world that the robot is seeking. From there, the story unfolds with a slow sense of inevitability, with a small handful of twists and a growing feeling of unease.

If Asimov is the most explicit inspiration for Avarya, Rod Serling seems like another obvious touchpoint. At 20 minutes long, Avarya could just about be an episode of the Twilight Zone, and its two-person cast and mostly fixed location would be well suited to that show's minimal-by-necessity approach. Serling's stories are mostly remembered for their ironic twists, but what most imitators forget—and what Gönen gets right—is that those twists don't exist for their own sake. They're there to undermine our assumptions, to pick out weak points in our belief systems and show how a shift in perspective can quickly turn angels into demons and heaven into hell.

For all its connections to classic sci-fi, Avarya is more than just an homage. Steeped in art deco elegance and ornate designs, it's a visually rich addition to one of the genre's longest ongoing converstions—one that has only gotten more urgent since it began nearly a century ago.

AVARYA

dir: Gökalp Gönen

syn: Embarked on a spaceship in the hope of finding a new habitable planet, the human trapped in his own ship after the robot overseer finds every single candidate planet unsuitable. Eventually the human finds a way out, but that will only reveal a dark secret.

Written, Directed and Produced by: Gökalp Gönen

Script Advisor: Ozan Çanak

Voice actors:
Man: Sermet Yeşil
Robot: Damla Çay

Animators:
Ferit Yücel
Erman Seles
Murat Tahan
Özlem Süme
Ümit Çalık
Altuğ Demircioğlu
Gökalp Gönen

Modelling of the man:
Ecem Okumuş

Rigging of the man:
Özgür Aydoğdu

Sound :
Ozan Çanak

Music:
Ozan Çanak
Yasemin Özler

2019