Deep space as a mirror in which we search for ourselves
by Camillo de Marco
- The talented UK director forays into a new genre, classic science fiction
Cineuropa: Your new film is hyper-technological science fiction film that looks to Tarkovsky and Kubrick. What inspired such spiritual purity?
Danny Boyle: The premise was these eight astronauts tied to a bomb the size of Manhattan that is hurtling towards the sun. There aren’t many films about the sun, except for Thunderbirds or Lost in Space, in which the main characters pass the sun saying "Hmm, it’s a bit hot…". I was attracted to the idea that this star is our life source, for which one can see it as a physical, psychological as well as spiritual journey – a journey towards our life source.
What films were your reference points?
Obviously 2001 and Solaris, as well as the first Alien by Ridley Scott. These films raised audiences’ expectations to a very high level.
The film is made up of contrasts, open and closed spaces, symbolically opposed colours.
Space in and of itself is extremely vast yet the characters are confined to a steel tube. Then there is the light of sun, which burns you instantaneously, while space freezes you. They must mentally face all of this. Without forgetting the contrast between Hell – represented by Pinbacker, the mysterious captain of the previously sent ship – and Paradise. Science itself opposes this man: Pinbacker is an anti-scientist, a medieval fundamentalist, a kind of Taleban who thinks we shouldn’t interfere with God’s plan, which is apparently to allow this star to die, and with it humankind.
What was your visual approach to a film shot inside a spaceship?
We started with the sun as a circle and constructed the rest around that: the spaceship’s heat shield is also a circle. This spherical element was also the basis for the light. In terms of colour, I tried not to use reds, oranges and yellows inside the ship, but cold colours, blue and grey. Depriving spectators of yellow, the penetration effect was greater the moment that the wave of colour and light comes bursting out from the sun.
You based your work on scientific data, consulted with scientists, used real NASA images for the surface of the sun. Which are the less reliable elements of your film, those created for narrative purposes?
The last half hour is an extreme vision because we have no way of knowing what happens as you approach the sun. When Capa raises his hand towards the sun it goes beyond science and the rational.
Why did you name the main character Robert Capa, like the great war photographer?
Capa is a beautiful name and he was a fantastic photographer, whose work is very much connected with my film. It was pointed out to me that the main character suffers the same fate as the photographer.
You have used many genres in your work...
I always try to vary, to look for players who score goals. This was my most difficult film because it was extremely technical, with complicated aspects to deal with, such as zero gravity. I have to say that the more successful films, such as Trainspotting, are those farthest from me, about which people remember even more than I do. But I tend to protect the weaker ones.
Production-wise, this was without doubt a challenging film.
We obtained enormous success with 28 Days Later and used that to push ourselves beyond our limits a bit, allowing ourselves to be more ambitious and to dare. The idea that struck us on "the road to Damascus" was to dive into this world, space, that for humankind has always been a mirror in which to search for itself.