The apocalyptic romance Perfect Sense merges sensuality with sci-fi doom like few other movies. Director David Mackenzie talks to Trevor Johnston.
Northumberland-born, Glasgow-based David Mackenzie is among the most enterprising and prolific British directors of his generation, having made seven features since The Last Great Wilderness in 2002. His work, which trades on thematic intelligence, a European attitude to sexuality and a willingness to blur boundaries, includes Young Adam, Hallam Foe and Ashton Kutcher vehicle, Spread. His latest, Perfect Sense, tells of a love story between Ewan McGregor and Eva Green as an epidemic hits Glasgow.
Perfect Sense resists classification – can we call it a ‘sci-fi romance’?
Well, it’s got science in it, it’s a fiction, but it’s not trying too hard to belong to the sci-fi genre. I’m not sure there’s one word for it. A human response movie? A find-your-humanity movie? Dare I say it, it seems quite original. I have to credit the writer, Kim Fupz Aakeson, for coming up with the concept of people losing everything they have to lose, of how we might adapt to that change and at the same time there being this love story going in the opposite direction to the decline of everything else. So it was a smart, poetic and rather honest way of dealing with some pretty heavy human themes.
Fupz, a fine old Danish name?
And he actually signs himself Fupz. Just Fupz. He’d originally set the film in Copenhagen and it came to me through my company Sigma’s association with Zentropa Films over there. But I could never see it being set in Denmark. They’d just deal with the crisis too efficiently. It was always going to be more interesting in a city that was halfway on its knees already. Which is where Glasgow came in.
It’s really less about the setting than the notion of the two lovers discovering their humanity as it’s taken away from them.
Well, that’s it. It’s a film which is not necessarily about the story but about the questions it raises for the viewer, the echoes it has for them. I enjoyed making a film which wasn’t too literal, which was brave enough to be metaphorical in certain areas.
You keep it quite intimate, which must have worked in your favour in terms of budget?
Yes, but it was actually more important that it wasn’t about the money. For instance, if you look at the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan then you see essentially the same events as those covered in Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One – with a hand in the water, a watch and blood in the waves. There’s an argument to say that the cheaper but more poetic version is better cinema.
That’s not a fashionable view, the way today’s industry operates…
Maybe – but I’m not very good at being dishonest, which is why I’ve never done a sequel or some franchise-type thing. I came into the business out of a love of European cinema, not a passion for comic books or old TV shows which seem to be the case with a lot of the younger directors coming up.
Even so, unlike a lot of British filmmakers, you’ve rolled up your sleeves and managed to make a succession of worthwhile films.
Yes, and they’re pretty much all mine, even the ones I’ve done for other people. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. I don’t like conformity. I don’t like being put in a box. In some ways, I feel I’ve spent the last 10 years making movies that nobody knows about. Sometimes I feel a bit lost in obscurity but I do feel fortunate to be making films. I’d just like to make one that lots of people will go and see. Let’s hope Perfect Sense will be that movie.
Perfect Sense opens on May 31.