Posted July 28, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features
 
 

Splice Director Vicenzo Natali Interview


Director
Vicenzo Natali tells Chris Patmore about the film that took a decade in the
making, starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as super geneticists who splice
human and animal DNA to create a humanoid.

As
we know, sci-fi is about addressing different issues in the world. Is Splice a
warning about the dangers of genetic engineering, and working with big
pharmaceutical corporations?

I
think Splice is really a warning about parenthood – or bad parenting – more
than it is about science. I tried to be very realistic with the science and the
way we treated the science in the film. I think it is such a loaded topic that
clearly, when you are doing a Frankenstein kind of story, you can’t help but
stumble over the Promethium underpinnings of it. But I wanted to be somewhat
ambiguous, as much as I could with this sort of story, about the science and
how the science is treated in the real world. Invariably this is going to be a
cautionary tale, it being a horror film.

At
the same time, I felt that Clive and Elsa were, in many respects, quite heroic,
in what they were trying to do. They kind of stray off the path and things go
terribly wrong, but their intensions are good. Having worked with geneticists
in the process of developing the script and making the film, I really came to
respect what they do, and see the tremendous value this kind of research has. I
really didn’t want to make this an anti-engineering film. I hope it doesn’t
have that effect.

It
is clearly ambiguous about the whole science thing; it is as much about the
battle between nature and nurture.

Absolutely.
There are a lot of things going on in there. One of the things that sustained
me through the very long development process – it took over ten years to get
the movie made. The material was so rich, so inherently full of these kinds of
themes. When you deal with this stuff there are issues of identity and, of
course, the parenting metaphor. Even the concept of creating an animal-human
hybrid has its roots in myth, and I was very conscious of how there were echoes
of sirens and all sorts of mythical beasts. So it was always a very rich plot
we were trying to transcend.

You
said it took almost ten years to make. Did you find the real science was moving
faster than the speculative science you were imagining?

It
was disturbing to me to realise that it took less time to map the human genome
than it did to finish the script, which is probably more of a comment on how
slow I am.

SpliceDo
you find that if you put too much emphasis on the science you are going to
alienate a big part of your audience.

That
is a danger, and that’s what’s tricky about this stuff. My approach was to be
as plausible and realistic as I could be within the confines of the story and,
as much as I could, not to have too much expository talk. Often, when Clive and
Elsa are talking, they are saying stuff that, unless you are a geneticist, you
couldn’t possibly understand. I can’t stand it in science-fiction films when
characters are saying stuff that they themselves would know, but they are
saying them for the benefit of the audience.

I
saw a new British sci-fi film the other day, and nearly all of the dialogue was
exposition, but not even very well written exposition, and it spoilt the whole
film, which was based on an interesting concept.

I’m
sympathetic because it one of the things that is invariably a challenge with
almost any science-fiction film; how do you create a world without explaining
it? How can you do it in a way that is self-evident for the audience.

Particularly
for movies, because with books there is more scope for explanation just by the
nature of them being word based, whereas with the movie you have to keep them
engrossing visually as well.

Exactly.
I’m in the process of writing an adaptation of Neuromancer, the William Gibson
novel, and people come up to me and invariably say, ‘Isn’t that a lot like The
Matrix’ or ‘Don’t you feel like that’s been done?’ My response to that is; that
is good. It’s good that The Matrix exists, and things like it, because now, a
lot of the concepts that would have had to be explained in that kind of dry way
are just part of common knowledge, and you can put them in a movie without any
explanation whatsoever. Then you can get into the really fun stuff.

It’s
also fairly common knowledge that The Matrix was inspired by Neuromancer.

It
couldn’t have existed without Neuromancer. The word Matrix comes from
Neuromancer. It’s also a very different kind of movie. I don’t think the two
step on each other in any way. First of all, The Matrix has much more of a
comic book kind of tone, whereas, to me, Neuromancer is a little more serious,
hard sci-fi and, philosophically, The Matrix is much more akin to Philip K
Dick, because it is questioning what is real, what is reality, whereas Gibson’s
book is really much more describing a post-human world and exploring what our
relationship is to machines and how we are going to merge with them.

Vicenzo NataliAnd
because filmmaking technology has moved on so much you can do more for less.

I
think so. I wouldn’t do Neuromancer on a low budget, but it definitely makes it
more attainable, and in some regards it gives me a little more artistic freedom
for that reason, it doesn’t have to be a $200 million movie. That was much the
case with Splice. Part of the reason it took me so long to get Splice made is
because it took that long for the film technology to get to the point where I
could create Dren realistically at a reasonable cost. It will be much the same
with Neuromancer.

How
much help was it for you to have Del Toro and Joel Silver behind Splice?

It
was very helpful, and they both came in at different and critical moments.
Guillermo came in at the early stages when we were piecing the finances
together, and just having his name attached to the film legitimised and
contextualised it in a way that made people excited about it. Then, when the
movie was done, Joel picked it up at Sundance and he’s the reason we got a
major release in the United States. We went out on 2500 screens through Warner
Brothers, and that would not have happened if it wasn’t for him. The
marketplace now is such that it is impossible for an independent film to get a
release, and we were one of the only ones, in fact, this year.


Marcia Degia - Publisher

 
Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.