Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Idol. Visionary. Demon. Saviour. Prick.

A very complex picture of Apple CEO and inventor Steve Jobs gets painted in Alex Gibney’s biopic, one ofmany feature films and documentaries made following the controversial figure’s death.

The image of a candle flickering on an ipad sums up much of the film and public image of the man with the insight to set ground-breaking technological trends and resurrect a flailing company, only to make it the most successful business in the world.

Covering Job’s early days at Apple and the collective public ecstasy following the release of the imac, ipod, iphone, the documentary pulls no punches in detailing the man’s tumultuous relationship with Steve Wozniak, estrangement with his daughter, the treatment of Apple’s factory workers in China and Jobs’ personal treatment of a reporter who leaked details of an iphone prototype.

Not a full-fledged attack on Jobs nor an unabashed celebration of his life and achievements, The Man in the Machine balances the differing views on Jobs’ legacy through interviews with colleagues and confidants, news coverage of Apple’s exploits and archival footage of the man himself, whether it be launching one of his beloved products, making a deposition or Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech.

Most engaging of all is Gibney’s breakdown of the deified image of Jobs held by the many who associate him wholly with his creative output. Some followers are shown rejecting any criticism of Jobs’ legacy as blasphemy, while reports in the film of Jobs’ treatment of co-workers and penchant for parking in the handicapped zone at Apple headquarters will clash with widely-held conceptions of the iconic figure.

A deconstruction of the less than ideal aspects of his personality, the film is just as captivating when dealing with Jobs’ many accomplishments; not limiting itself to his technological achievements and covering in detail Jobs’ tenure at Pixar. Jobs’ tremendous impact on Silicon Valley undeniable, the film successfully creating a more complete image of the entrepreneur both revered and reviled by so many.

The Man in the Machine, which just as well could have been called The Man Behind the Curtain, draws away the fantastical, almost mythical image to reveal a flawed yet altogether more fascinating figure than could ever be drawn from the pure idolization or exaltation of Jobs,’ rightfully the subject of Gibney’s vigorous and captivating documentary.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival