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Film in Flux: Conflating Creativity and Artificial Intelligence at Gothenburg Film Festival

Francesca Beaumont

Wednesday, 25 October 2023

A look at Sweden’s contemporary cultural industry and how AI plans to augment and reimagination some of Sweden's most famous film's. Exploring what Gothenburg Film Festival's digitalized debut mean for the future of the film industry. Is it an exciting experimental shift in cinema, or will Artificial Intelligence be used to undercut the authenticity so intimately undergirding art house cinema?

In January 2024, the Göteborg film festival will be host to an AI-assisted reimagination of Swedish arthouse classic ‘Persona’ (Dir. Ingmar Bergman). But what does this digital debut mean for the future of the film industry? Is it signalling an exciting experimental shift in cinema? Or will AI Augmentation be used to undercut the authenticity that is so intimately undergirding art house cinema?

In this debut, Liv Ullman, most known for her performance as Elisabet Vogler in Persona (1966), will have her face digitally replaced by the face of Alma Pöysti, a Swedish-speaking Finnish actor, most recognised for her 2023 performance in ‘Fallen Leaves’.

Jonas Holmberg, Göteborg film festival’s artistic director, claims that “the authenticity that has made ‘Persona’ a classic has been urgently reactivated by technological advancements”, and thus this restoration of ‘Persona’ (1966), which will be screened exclusively at the Swedish film festival, will act more as a “discussion on acting and technology” than an applause for emerging technological advancement in the film industry. Choosing Ingmar Bergman’s arthouse apotheosis is an interesting move from Sweden’s largest film festival, as Bergman’s films are intrinsically tied to the nature of the soul. His oeuvre is famous for extracting and implementing Nietzschean ethics and Kierkegaardian existentialism throughout. And to now frame his works inside a digital medium provides a platform for some very interesting debates. Holmberg argues that AI is purely reactivating authenticity, but how is it possible that we can attach authenticity to art that requires digitalism to propel itself into the scope of legitimacy?

In anti-AI rhetoric, it is held that creativity is an invariably human quality – one that is completed out of sync with technology. To be creative is to be human. In superseding our own creativity with AI, are we not outsourcing our humanity to machinery as a means to mitigate the authenticity of the self?

However, it is also widely held that all technology is inevitably embedded in, and influenced by, the social context in which it is developed, and thus there is no reason why Artificial Intelligence doesn’t have the capacity to emulate the authenticity of the human soul. This suggests that the artificial restoration of Bergman’s classic is not upending the complexity of the human condition but rather enhancing the multitude of ways we approach it.

In many of Harvard Business Review’s AI Articles, it is held that “AI carries such great potential to satisfy the need to create content that it is incredibly representative of the consumer”. Taken positively, we can then take on the assumption that, through digitally enhanced art and film, we will soon be reaching a place where AI will be able to reflect to us the essence of our own authenticity with impressive accuracy. And where better to start than cinema?

Sweden’s contemporary film scene is certainly home to some of the most current and heated debates regarding the merging of Artificial Intelligence with Art. So, whilst this artificial augmentation of ‘Persona’ will not be releasing outside of Sweden, it still births a very important argument regarding cinema worldwide and how emerging technology plans to modulate the cultural industry.


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