CHRISTOPHER MACBRIDE | INTERVIEW
Described as “a tricksy, time-bending sci-fi mystery” in Buzz’s review just last week, the temporal meddling cooked up by director Christopher MacBride in new movie Flashback has enthralled Carl Marsh too. Next stop: this chat between the pair.
Flashback’s duration is only about 90 minutes, but I was so wholly mesmerised by it that it felt like I had been watching it for hours – in the right way, as films like Donnie Darko and Jacob’s Ladder did. Thank you for not allowing my mind to drift off!
That’s music to my ears, hearing stuff like this. I remember saying to the producers, when I initially gave them the script, “I think this is what I want to do next,” and told them upfront: “Look, there are so many people that are not going to like this. It is not going to be for everybody. This is not a mass appeal kind of story – but I think that people who discover it, certain people will really like it. We have to aim for these people, like myself, and hopefully they’ll just dig it and really like the experience.”
I’ve always said that my ideal way that people would watch this movie is just to find it by accident, like maybe three years from now. It’s on the TV or something and they’re like, “what the hell is this?” That, to me, is the perfect movie experience. So many of my seminal movie experiences were like that, where I just stumbled onto Jacob’s Ladder or something in the middle of the night, and it affected me my entire life.
My interpretation of Flashback is that it’s all about choice: watching Dylan O’Brien’s main character, Fred, choosing to go the wrong way down a one-way street, and then the events which follow, made me wonder what path I would go down. Is this what you wanted to get across in the screenplay?
Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head in terms of my intentions. First of all, yes, it’s 100% about choice. If there’s one thing at the heart of the whole story for me, both at the screenplay phase and with the film, I wanted to explore whether free will is a real thing or not. Are the choices we make because we are empowered to make them, or are there external influences controlling every choice we make?
For Fred, it’s going all the way back to his childhood when he was a baby – things that happened to him there created his very decision-making process, and have guided his path ever since. And so the choice was always the key theme.
There are so many films where I feel like they feel this pressure to overexplain everything. I understand why – you know that it is sometimes an unnerving experience when you’re confused or don’t know exactly what’s going on – but I enjoy those films. I want a film that is more concerned with building mystery than overexplaining every little thing.
Are there any films you can draw comparison from?
I always try to draw examples from two very interesting space movies: there’s 2001, and then there’s Interstellar. Both are full of exciting ideas, both obviously by super-talented filmmakers, but I think 2001 will stand the test of time a lot more because it doesn’t give you all the answers.
All that stuff at the end in the space station sequence – it’s not explained, it’s poetic, and it just speaks to you on another level. Whereas Christopher Nolan, being the type of filmmaker he is, likes to go into a 20-minute explanation of what this is all about – which is great! He’s an incredible filmmaker. Still, to me, that’s less interesting, this “let’s explain the whole movie sequence at the end”.
As you said earlier, some people might not initially get it. But a film that will leave anybody still thinking about it 24 hours later is a great success for any scriptwriter and film director.
That’s the way I feel about most movies I watch too. It’s so hard to have, I guess, an experience watching a movie that actually looks like an experience. You don’t even have to love the film, but just feel like it was a different world than you were brought into; like you live in that little world for a while, in the psychology of it and everything.
I think films are becoming more and more narrow, in terms of everything based on existing IP and comic books, and everything being made for streaming platforms now; I just feel like the choices are dwindling and dwindling and dwindling. The space for strange experiences watching a film seems to be getting smaller. Hopefully I’m wrong about that, and the pendulum swings back. It probably will. But again, that’s what I love. I love watching a movie and just feeling like it made me feel weird things that I didn’t fully understand. I like that uncertainty.
Flashback is out now via digital download. Info: www.vertigoreleasing.com/portfolio/flashback
words CARL MARSH