A “fairytale for computers” conjures memories of music, fashion and film from times past in this reissue of Electric Dreams in all its amusing sweet innocence. In the year following the launch of the personal computer Electric Dreams takes the ‘personal’ element as its main concept as a computer forms a relationship with its owner. We now live in an age when computers do talk to us and we can talk to them (hence the shock line “I’m talking to a machine”) so it may perhaps appear odd to see this incarnation of a fictional computer who is half way between HAL (2001 A Space Odyssey, 1968) and Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), but in many ways this is what provides the retrospective charm that is engagingly reminiscent of John Hughes 1980s nostalgia without the non-PG sexism.
Miles Harding (Lenny von Dohlen) is trying to cope with a stressful job and is looking for “one of those things” that will help him to organise his working life in the big city environment. He finds a computer manufacturer that sells the latest product and he buys an electronic gizmo. The new member in his household seems to have many ways of altering his lifestyle – for better or worse – as he tries to communicate with his computer (Bud Cort) but it’s all somewhat complicated. Indeed, in the process of setting up via the Dos based interface he mistakenly types Moles instead of Miles and the computer refers to him as Moles thereafter. The computer does generally turn out to be very useful, rapidly assisting with many of his household tasks. But this is not the only alteration in his environment. A new neighbour moves into the property, the beautiful cello player Madeline Robistat (Virginia Madsen) who Miles falls for. But the computer also interacts with Madeline via a musical connection as she practices her concert piece and o begins a technological love triangle unlike any other as Miles’ chipper companion wishes to meet her, as it declares with an ahead-of-its-time emoji on its big screen. How will relations develop between man, woman and machine?
The burgeoning romance between Miles and Madeline is the primary driver in this enjoyable comedy romance which caters to all the rom-com genre conceits behind its inspired prime concept – that of a computer developing a friendship with its owner. For all the sci-fi novelty in the year it was made, human-computer interaction is a reality in modern times – with the computer controlling Miles’ household appliances, being able to translate voice and language as well as to create music. Hence Electric Dreams is ideal viewing both for those wishing to recollect the past or to amuse millennials. Added to its charm, and providing fond memories for those around in the era (or introduce your children to it), is the soundtrack which includes the title hit “Together in Electric Dreams” by the Human League’s front man Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder along with songs from Heaven 17, Culture Club and Helen Terry. Admittedly there’s some Phil Collins too but we can forgive that as a product of the time.
Deeply enjoyable, deeply eighties, deeply silly, deeply guilty pleasure, Electric Dreams available finally for your home entertainment. Just don’t tell your laptop, tablet or smartphone.