A husband and a wife decide, after many years of marriage, to add a little spice to their sex life. In search for a new source of titillation, they’ve turned to an artificial intelligence service that will let them digitally change their faces to their partner’s fantasy celebrity partner.
But the swap works a little too well — though it certainly livens things up for the couple, it does so in a way that no one quite expects.
Director David Gidali, along with writer and co-director Einat Tubi, have created a short sci-fi film that is both an exploration of the impact of new technology on age-old desires and fears of humankind, and a satirical look at how we fetishize celebrities, sometimes at the expense of the actual people in our life.
Sci-fi often seems to deal with a distant future, but what’s fascinating about the short is that the technology that “Face Swap” hinges upon — and utilizes in its own making — are the machine-learning A.I. human image synthesis techniques that were released fairly recently over the Internet. In real life, this “deepfake”‘ technology has enabled a whole market of fake celebrity erotic videos, and now there are apps that easily enable users to create and share their own “face swap” videos. (Writer-director and comedian Jordan Peele used this technology to create his infamous Obama speech, which went viral last year.)
“Face Swap” takes this technology and uses it to tell a playful, clever and often sharply funny story, through deft camerawork and nimble, adroit performances that highlight both the fun and dysfunction of wearing a celebrity’s face over your own. The narrative is contained to a single evening, but it posits how our world can use this tech to cater to humans’ age-old desire for pleasure and variety. In an increasingly glossy world, it seems, tools like A.I. may be leaned upon to gloss over our faults, boredom and everyday sticking points.
“Face Swap” is a very entertaining, well-crafted short that ends with a funny “zing” that brings great laughs, but it also raises questions of just what’s possible with deepfake technology. In this era of fake news, if technology can swap out any face in a video for another, will it be harder to discern just what is true and real? But in its portrayal of human foibles, no matter how advanced the tools we use to fix them, the film cleverly points out the gaps between the fantasies occupied and the people within them. No matter who we could appear to be, we’re still left with ourselves at the end of the day.