To this end Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine attempts to explore exactly who Jobs was. What motivated him, what did his peers think? What were his relationships like? What were his beliefs? The result is perhaps the most personal biography of Jobs to date. As you’d expect, it features the high-profile scandalous misdemeanours. How he screwed college Steve Wozniak out of a considerable bonus, the tax avoidance and the relentless harassment of Gizmondo journalists who obtained a next generation iPhone.
Gibney does find the time though to look at the smaller, more personal matters that colour or indeed discolour our perception of Jobs. The big one of course is his relationship with his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs, whom he denied parentage of. The documentary highlights the lengths Jobs went to, even going so far as to claim he was sterile. Jobs could have accomplished the things he did without turning people against him, and even acknowledging Lisa’s parentage would have cause little financial and reputation loss. It suggests almost a compulsion towards pushing people away with no reason or rationale necessary.
The answer to all this potentially lies in the scarcely examined area of Jobs’ spiritual and philosophical journeys. From his conversations with Zen Priest Kobun Chino to his travels to India and Kyoto; Jobs was a true student of Buddhism, though obviously not a strict practitioner. The documentary describes an idea referred to as The Golden Chain which links a person to the ego even after they have achieved enlightenment. It’s an idea that may be too lofty and self-indulgent to really explain Steve Jobs but it’s certainly one that fits his persona.
To Gibney’s credit Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is not only the most vibrant, comprehensive and personal take on the figure in a while, but also the most objective. It never tries to pretend that there was some unknown genius behind Jobs’ poor behaviour nor does it try to paint him as monstrous or entitled. This isn’t a love letter or a takedown; it’s a procedural, just-the-facts biography of a man who made a big impact on the world.
STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE is available now on Blu-ray™ and DVD.