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BERLIN (Reuters) - Alma is a museum curator in Berlin. She is single, and has a taste for men who are slightly different but not in any way exotic. The solution? Tom, a robot who speaks German with a slight English accent.
This is the premise of Maria Schrader's romantic comedy 'I'm Your Man', which opened this year's online Berlin Film Festival on Monday.
An exploration of the free will, compromise and friction that true love needs, the film casts German stage star Maren Eggert with 'Downton Abbey' star Dan Stevens as the robot she agrees to spend three weeks with to fund her research.
Schrader, who last year became the first German director to win an Emmy for the Netflix series 'Unorthodox', said she wanted to explore "the paradoxes of human desire" in the film, one of 15 competing for a coveted Golden Bear this year.
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Handsome, and engineered to meet the highly strung, deeply intellectual Alma's every need, Tom starts out speaking with all the charm of a satnav. But he learns rapidly, despite Alma's resistance.
"Alma defends the principles of romantic love, independence and so-called free will," Schrader wrote. "In her eyes, Tom is nothing more than a machine to fulfill her needs; far from being a true counterpart, she sees a hollow illusion."
Light-hearted and relentlessly entertaining, the film inadvertently exposed the limitations of this year's pandemic-compliant online-only format.
Lines which in other years would have had audiences of critics and film-makers rolling in the aisles of the Festival's packed cinemas were lucky to win a mild chuckle from viewers watching a film streamed into their living rooms.
"It's bittersweet," Stevens told a post-streaming news conference, reflecting on the experience of bringing a labor of love to a virtual premier.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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