A Heart That Ticks

“The Invention of Love” (2010), an animated short by Andrey Shushkov, is a cautionary tale of the sad consequences of humanity’s ravenous hunger for technological progress.

Day breaks in the land of cogs and wheels and nuts and bolts. Stirred by the sweet scent of a rose, a gentleman, in a pair of breeches, rides out into the country. As darkness descends, like a gallant knight, mounted on a stallion—a mechanical one—he crests the slope of a wooded hillock.

And there, he sets eyes on a delicate young woman wandering in the meadows under the halo of a pale, moonlit sky. His sees her, and his heart surges with romance. He presents her with a flower, plucked from the pristine soil, not by his own hands, but by the hoof of his four-footed carrier.

By nightfall, they fall in love completely, and set off for their new life. The crack of dawn sees the couple scudding across a flaming-orange horizon in a balloon-like craft that leaves in its wake a thick contrail of noxious fumes.

They enter a smoggy airspace, populated with all manner of bizarre aerial transportation, from blimps to blunderbusses to monocycles, all powered by carbon dioxide-emitting engines. A congested skyline, pierced with turrets, towers, spires, belches coils of dense smoke into the air. Below, a big city, enveloped in heavy soot and grime—reminiscent of the dirty cloud that draped Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution—gasps and pants. Motors hum away. Factories sigh.

The woman stares goggle-eyed at her new surroundings. It’s a machine world, she has arrived into, she realizes, where rod-like tree branches gather rust, get rickety, and fall to the ground; butterflies whir their blade-like wings; dogs scamper about, wound-up by their masters’ keys. It is, in short, no place for anything organic.

Back home, the flower—a souvenir the couple had brought back with them from the forests—wilts. Callously, the man tosses it out, and replaces it with what is, a more botanical contraption, and less a plant. Deeply saddened, the woman goes in search of it.

At the bottom of an underground scrap yard, buried under layers of industrial refuse, she finds it, and takes a whiff of its petals. Its fragrance, now turned into a toxic vapor, proves fatal for her. By the time this bitter realization strikes her beau, it’s too late, and all he can do is to invent a heart that will tick away, with clockwork precision.

Genuine love, human love, is a casualty of this malevolently mechanistic place.


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