Maria Schrader, director of “I’m Your Man”, on the cast of Dan Stevens

In 1964, CBS premiered the sci-fi comedy “My Living Doll” in which a celibate psychiatrist (Bob cummings) is responsible for taking care of a beautiful android prototype (Julie newmar) because its creator does not want the robot to fall into the hands of the military. The shrink decides to teach his astonishing but naive charge how to be the perfect woman: a woman freed before women does as she is told and never responds to her. That premise wouldn’t fly these days, especially in the wake of the #MeToo era. Even then, the series only lasted one season. The roles are turned in the sophisticated and thought-provoking romantic comedy “I’m Your Man”, Germany’s official entry for Best International Feature at the Oscars.

Directed by Maria schrader and featuring Maren Eggert and Dan Stevens, “I Am Your Man” revolves around a bright young woman, unlucky in love and working in a cash-strapped museum, who has been asked by her boss to participate in a most unusual study. Schrader’s Alma has to share his apartment for three weeks with the handsome Tom, tall, blue-eyed and who happens to be an android. Not just an android, but the one programmed to be Alma’s perfect man. If she succeeds in the experiment, she will receive the much-needed funds for her work.

Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com) found it to be “a film that challenges its familiar and original romantic comedy setup to become something deeper and more poignant about the human condition.” Schrader and co-writer Jan Schomburg (from a short story by Emma Braslavski) permeates their hybrid genre of eloquence and intelligence. And it helps a lot to have two lovely performers to deliver their themes. “I am your man” may not break the mold, but he operates in it with confidence and grace. “

In a recent Zoom conversation with The Wrap, the filmmaker noted that it was an unusual experience to have a man treated as an object by a woman. “I felt it on set,” Schrader said. “There is a scene where Alma really treats him like an object. When Alma says, “So please take your clothes off, let me see the perfect body that’s designed for me,” he stands there without sarcasm, selfishness, or the urge to retaliate and he just pulls his pants down and Alma looks at him. The camera crew, she noted, was like, ” Oh ‘, something unusual was going on. “” It’s not something very done, just drop my pants on command like that; definitely not on camera anyway, ”Stevens joked.

Schrader was intrigued to adapt the short story into a film because of the simplicity of the set-up. “Two individuals and the question of love is it possible or is it not possible,” she said. “Then at the same time, the complexity of it. One of these individuals is not human and is still almost too good to be a true human. It brings up a lot of questions where I thought we’re not really, really prepared for the answers yet. “

Schrader and Schomberg chose to make several changes to the original story which is much darker than “I am your man”. “The news is more about destruction and competition and at the very end death,” she said, adding “here we thought it was interesting, maybe the machine is not a dystopian future fantasy. He might just be the most civilized individual. Let’s start with a blind date and see how a machine would flirt and give compliments. There were comedic aspects right away. there and then anyway, I think it’s not just a comedy, I’ve seen people start to cry at a screening.

Stevens, who rose to fame as Matthew Crawley in “Downton Abbey,” welcomed the opportunity to star “on a romantic comedy and a romantic lead role and almost satirized. the idea at the beginning. Those early scenes, the idea that Tom was pre-programmed with the 20 greatest focus lines of all time. We liked the idea that he maybe absorbed a huge amount of old romantic and wacky comedies and had a lot of genres of Cary grant and Jimmy stewart It was preprogrammed into him that he would unfold and that would certainly work for Alma. But this is not the case. “So all of a sudden the wheels drop pretty quickly and you see him sort of scrambling to recalibrate himself and become the human, become the partner Alma maybe wants for her,” Stevens proposed.

Schrader searched for actors all over Europe to play Tom. “It was in my head from the start that it would be interesting to find a foreign actor who speaks German very well but still has a select accent that disconnects,” said the director. “Dan and I were more looking for the disconnections, the little traces where you could feel that even though he looked so human, he wasn’t. So language was one aspect of it.

Although he had worked in German before, Stevens admitted that it took a while for him to get used to making a movie in another language. “First of all, there is only the daily conversation with everyone on the set in German,” he explained. “But as for the character himself, Tom as an android trying to be human is a pretty unusual role. But then I find how the German language is structured is subtly different in terms of where the thought is coming from. and where is the line impetus coming from or where the line motivation is coming from. It was a fascinating way for me to get into the language and a different way of thinking both as an android and as a German speaker.

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