CAST: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton
DIRECTOR: Joon-ho Bong
In a new Ice Age, where earth has been frozen for 17 years, Snowpiercer is the only place for survivors. Climate change has made the planet uninhabitable. Those few who survived the planet’s demise live aboard a train that perpetually circles the same track. The tail section is like a slum, filled with people who are cold and hungry, forced to live by their wits, while the front section contains the chosen few, who indulge in alcohol and drugs amid luxurious surroundings. The world inside the train is far from equal. In the 17th year of the train’s infinite course, a young leader from the tail section stirs up a riot that has been brewing for some time. In order to liberate the tail section and eventually the whole train, this hero and his fellow passengers charge toward the engine located at the front of the train, where it’s creator, the absolute authority, resides in splendour. But unexpected circumstances lie in wait for humanity’s tenacious survivors.
Director Bong Joon Ho first encountered the French graphic novel ‘Transperceneige’, on which ‘Snowpiercer’ is based, in a bookshop near Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea, during the winter of 2005. He read through the entire volume while browsing in the store and became mesmerized by the cinematic potential of a train filled with bustling human lives hurling through the aftermath of a global apocalypse. He was determined to turn it into a film.
“The first thing that grabbed my attention was the unique cinematic space of a train, and the vision of hundreds of metal pieces moving like a living snake carrying people squirming inside,” Bong admits. “And the people inside were fighting against each other after being divided into separate and distinct cars — they were not equal in this Noah’s Ark-like contraption that held the last survivors on Earth.” For his work on the script, completed in late 2010, Bong remained true to the themes of his previous works, which examine the nature of human beings under extreme circumstances: a case involving a brutal serial killer, (‘Memories Of Murder’); or a monster sprung from the depths of the Hangang River in Seoul (‘The Host’); or a mother who is gradually going insane (‘Mother’).“The original graphic novel was magnificent and it started from an original idea,” Bong admits.
“But I had to come up with a completely new story and new characters in order to create a ‘Snowpiercer’ that was packed with cinematic exhilaration.”
The most pressing challenge was creating a sense of constricted space inside the perpetually moving vehicle at the heart of his adaptation. “There is no detour inside a narrow, linear train,” Bong explains. “You have to advance forward in order to get anywhere. Bodies clash against each other and sweat is mixed up with blood. I wanted to portray the formidable energy and cinematic sensation that exploded out of this dynamic.”
For the part of Curtis, the leader of the uprising who guides passengers from the tail section through the body of the train into the front section, where the mythical engine is housed, Bong looked to Chris Evans, the American-born star of Marvel Comics adaptations, including the ‘Avengers’ and ‘Captain America’ films.
For Evans, it was Bong’s meticulous preparation on ‘Snowpiercer’, including the director’s artful storyboards, which made this film stand out from his Marvel predecessors. “The way he shot the movie is so unique,” Evans insists. “In a way he has already edited it in his brain. It’s like he’s building a house and instead of asking for bag of nails, Bong asks for 53 nails. He’s committed to a vision ahead of time and when you work with someone like that, it feels like you’re watching someone operate on a higher plane. Bong knew exactly what he wanted, and what he was doing.”
FILM: I, ORIGINS
CAST: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi, Cara Seymour, Venida Evans, William Mapother, Kashish
DIRECTOR: Mike Cahill
‘I, Origins’, the second feature film from writer and director Mike Cahill, tells the story of Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt), a molecular biologist studying the evolution of the eye. He finds his work permeating his life after a brief encounter with an exotic young woman (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) who slips away from him.
As his research continues years later with his lab partner Karen (Brit Marling), they make a stunning scientific discovery that has far reaching implications and complicates both his scientific and spiritual beliefs. Travelling half way around the world, he risks everything he has ever known to validate his theory.
Cahill calls ‘I, Origins’ both a molecular-biology thriller and a love story. Like Cahill’s first film, 2011 Sundance Film Festival winner ‘Another Earth’, ‘I, Origins’ is a personal and unconventional exploration of the mysteries of the scientific world. To Cahill, scientists are important role models for filmmakers. “They spend their lives asking the big questions,” he explains. “Why are we here? What are we made of? They explore the minutest levels of matter and they look at the biggest things, like the universe. I wish I were a scientist, but I’m a filmmaker, so I make films about scientists.”
Cahill tailored the role of Dr. Ian Gray, professional skeptic and passionate researcher, specifically for actor Michael Pitt. “Michael is an actor I’ve admired for many years,” says Cahill. “Meeting him, I was immediately drawn to his energy and his intuitive emotional intelligence. He is absolutely fearless as an actor and makes bold choices, both in the films he chooses to do and in his performances. As an artist, Michael is the real deal.”
For his part, Pitt was immediately intrigued by Cahill’s pitch. “I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head,” the actor says. “Mike gave me the treatment and we started emailing back and forth furiously. He put the script together in two or three weeks. From the beginning, Mike had very clear ideas about where he wanted to go.”