AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug talks the end of the world with THE DIVIDE Director Xavier Gens!!!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS interview. This time I catch up with French director Xavier Gens who has directed FRONTIER[S] and HITMAN in the past and recently released his end of the world epic THE DIVIDE on DVD and BlyRay (I reviewed the film here). Here’s what Mr. Gens had to say when I talked with him last week…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hello, Mr. Gens.
XAVIER GENS (XG): Hello, how are you?
BUG: I’m very well, thank you. I wanted to talk to you today about THE DIVIDE. It was a fantastic movie. I actually saw it a while back and I just rewatched it just recently. It really did blow me away. Can you describe the film to people who don’t know much about it?
XG: The story is eight people stuck in a building in New York and they will have to survive with each other after a large nuclear attack.
BUG: Yeah, so you worked with a pretty big cast. It was a pretty all start cast, were you all kind of stuck on the same kind of soundstage together? How did that work out?
XG: The filming process was really interesting, because… I’m a fan of 80’s movies like James Cameron’s films and so I was very excited to work with Michael Biehn and also I’m a huge fan of the TV show HEROES, so for me working with Milo Ventimiglia and all was a very nice experience. I also was fortunate to find some fresh faces like Lauren German. She was a very new face on that kind of a production. So for me it was a problem to try to find some new faces for THE DIVIDE and we brought on board Michael Eklund, who I think is amazing in the film. The idea was to mix the different kinds of people to create… I was trying to say something about being human and different and the human condition and jump into the torment…the darkness of that.
BUG: Yeah, well I think that the film was definitely successful. There seems to be a lot of “end of the world” films out right now. What do you think that says about our culture, that we are so fascinated with the end of the world right now?
XG: I think it’s because of the economic crisis. When you have any kind of crisis, a lot of these movies happen. Do you remember in the beginning of the 70’s? There were a lot of the like zombie movies, because of economic fear. There was a lot of judgment in the air about that and the atomic bomb, but it’s to show them that fear we all afraid of experiencing.
Finally the characters in THE DIVIDE are dying; because of their own doing and they have to save themselves. So obviously it’s speaking about that and the last pure human being in that basement with “Eva” will become selfish and finally decide to betray the only two people which she loved to escape and save her life. So for me it was very important to show that.
BUG: I really think that you guys go to some pretty dark places in here. Were the actors comfortable doing this? Or was it challenging to get the actors to go into these dark places?
XG: You know, when you ask actors to go in that kind of place, for them it’s attractive to them as a challenge and it’s my role to be careful about where they are going. For me it was very important to find a very organic way of acting and for them it helps to improv in preparation. It can be rough at first, but I’d just give them some space where they can express themselves and we would run with it. We let them improvise and together we made this work. It was a little bit of freedom and the actors were there to work with us and bring new ideas. At the beginning, the script for THE DIVIDE was 90 pages and at the end of the shooting you have 111 pages, so that’s all of the stuff the actors brought into the story and so it was amazing to see a lot of improvisation from Michael Eklund and Michael Biehn, from Rosanna Arquette… She had one of the most difficult parts of the film and she was always giving us great ideas. It was very complicated, the emotions she was going through in this role. She did some very difficult scenes and if we didn’t have Rosanna that would never happen.
BUG: So the subplot with the hair and how the guys shave the hair off their bodies and their theory was that the radiation was in the hair? Was that your idea? Where did that idea come from?
XG: The idea was coming from Michael… It was an improvisation from Michael Eklund, because you know there was already a scene with Milo Ventimiglia on the script where he shaves his head, but Michael Eklund wanted to shave his head too later in the story. I was like “Okay Michael, let’s shoot that moment” and we shot that moment and it’s a very important moment in the film now, but in the beginning it wasn’t at all scripted. So we decided to shoot that. That was one more hour after work to schedule, but it gave a very good voice to the film, because it says something about the character and elevates the story I think and then after that Michael got the idea to get the dress off Rosanna and put the dress on after she dies. He decides to take her dress and wear it because it made sense in the mind of his character in certain ways. His character has a sort of love story with Rosanna’s character and this was his way to show it. So it was very interesting to do that and that was more ideas from Michael Eklund, not in the script. Because I gave them the space to improv in the story, that brought that moment and there were a lot of other things like that too that happened. You know, we shot the film chronologically and in sequence, so you can let the character evolve during the shooting and the more creative the actor you have, the more creative movie you have at the end. It was very nice sharing on the set to see all of the actors together trying to create all of the time new stuff. It all happens in one room so there is the chance for actors to create conflict, but that conflict helped the performances of everybody. Everything became very organic. It was very interesting to create and witness that.
BUG: Yeah, that was a great performance by Michael Eklund. I’m definitely on the lookout for more roles from him in the future. Switching gears here, was there ever a temptation to get out of the bomb shelter a little bit more and show the world outside?
XG: There was a temptation from the beginning to show the outside, but for me it was more fun to keep it hidden until the end. So when you see the last scene of the film, I think it’s a big punch in the gut for the audience because it’s a very horrific moment for the viewer. For us we were inspired by Hiroshima. The production designer showed me that picture of Hiroshima after the bomb and said “This is really what we need to create” and we decided for us to make that a poetic sequence at the end where we are in the deserted world brought on by man. It’s a world without humanity. For me it was very important to have that feel that not only at the end. There is the scene where we show the lab with the hazmat, but we don’t really see anything outside. We see a bit of the outside at the beginning and then at the end with the new world after the collapse.
BUG: Great. Well what do you have coming up next? I’m always interested. I mean after FRONTIER[S], you were always a director that I wanted to follow, so what’s next for you?
XG: I’m currently working on a couple of French projects and American projects and nothing is taking off at the moment, but we are waiting on an answer I’ll be getting next week with a movie getting financing. I’m waiting to be sure about what will be next, but I’m not sure at the moment. We will see what happens.
BUG: Well congratulations on a great film. Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me. I appreciate your time. Thanks. Have a great day.
XG: Thank you very much. Ciao ciao.
BUG: Okay. Bye.
THE DIVIDE is now available everywhere on DVD & BluRay!
See ya this Friday for our regular AICN HORROR Column, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.
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May 1, 2012, 12:41 p.m. CST
by Brad Baldwin
May 1, 2012, 12:49 p.m. CST
No, of course not. Remember that little apocalypse they're expecting, sometime in December?
May 1, 2012, 1:11 p.m. CST
will watch it today. I've been hearing about it for months from a friend.
May 1, 2012, 1:13 p.m. CST
Watched it this morning and loved it from the music to cinematography there are unpleasant scenes but nothing out of place In context too the story
May 1, 2012, 2:14 p.m. CST
Such a terrific, underrated film. One of my all-time faves from my prime horror-watching period.
May 1, 2012, 2:44 p.m. CST
terrible, terrible movie. so over the top it becomes unbelievable. no redeeming moment in this one. trust me.
May 1, 2012, 2:45 p.m. CST
May 1, 2012, 2:46 p.m. CST
May 1, 2012, 7:07 p.m. CST
by Red Ned Lynch
...in exactly the way it was supposed to.
May 2, 2012, 12:32 a.m. CST
The Divide was disturbing at its best but ultimately way too uneven and never really all that original after the first half.
SPOILERS The first half with the attack, the survivors meeting each other, the soldiers and the stark realization that everyone was fucked was solid. But after that it became a pretty much by the numbers descent into savagery with familiar character arcs which we all pretty much saw coming. Not that the savagery depicted on screen was not disturbing to watch; far from it. It was just telegraphed from the beginning. A far better film would have seen the survivors chasing after the soldiers to try to rescue Arquette's daughter in the ruins of NYC and ultimately solving why the Hell those fuckers were there in the first place. As it stands, the film delves into that very interesting and very ambiguous sub plot for about 15 minutes, then it never comes back up again, ever. And that makes The Divide ultimately way too uneven. If the survivors had discovered what those soldiers were and why they were there (tossing ambiguity aside and giving us something concrete), well we would have had a completely new film. As it stands, this subplot allows the only child character to be whisked away in order to save her from the savagery that is to come, i.e. rapefest in a post apocalyptic rape cave. Just my two cents.
May 2, 2012, 8:05 a.m. CST
Went in, not expecting much, and was absolutely blown away. I especially loved that it didn't give you the answers to everything that happened. In real life, things happen that you never get any explanation for. It's the typical, bullshit Hollywood thing to have to wrap up every question and have everyone live happily ever after. This movie did not do the typical Hollywood bullshit thing and I love it for that. Cannot recommend it highly enough. Very much plan on picking up the Blu-Ray.
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