The sunshine of a spring day is stopped dead in its tracks at the massive doors of what
is still called the Commemorative Pavilion at the Sydney Showgrounds, which is gradually
morphing into the new studio complex for Twentieth Century Fox. Inside the cavernous hall,
giant pin-like legs of black-draped scaffold separate the space into the set and off-set.
The darkness on set oozes danger.
As we walk in, dozens of figures sit, amble, lounge or stand in the cluttered space,
their identically shaved heads poking out of identical black robes, a combination that
gives off an air of malice.
Past the impromptu café servery (complete with a small espresso machine!) we walk into
the area where the camera unit is located, inside the main set, a fantastic structure
which is being kept under wraps until the film’s release. Imagine a six storey
chamber surrounded by balconied floors that rise above the central area. At first glance,
each ‘wall’ is made of rustic, rusted sheeting, with irregular edges; in fact,
everything is irregular, except the central metal turntable, on which Rufus Sewell is
strapped, lying on his back.
The camera, mounted on a tall crane drops down towards him as two black robed figures
observe; one has an illuminated gizmo over his right eye. The darkness on set oozes
On one wall, a huge face has opened, as if split in two, revealing a giant clock with
an opaque face. Opposite this is a twisted mass of buildings - looking like a bizarre
theatre set that’s been twisted by the hands of some giant.
Sewell is released from his bonded state and bounds off the platform for a chat. He
slips on his tweed jacket, and what with his English accent, seems completely out of place
in Dark City.
" Naked in a cold bath ... not a great way to introduce
yourself to a strange crew" Rufus Sewell
"Christ, that thing’s uncomfortable…but at least they’ve put a bit
of padding under my head. Before, it was just a bit of metal."
He pours himself tea while I wait for a short black. In the real world, it’s 11 am
Monday. In dungeonous Dark City, it seems like eternal midnight.
Sewell, one of Britain’s prized young actors (on stage as well as screen), is
starring in this futuristic mystery, as John Murdoch, a man who must fight to reclaim his
destiny as he seeks to unravel the twisted riddle of his identity.
"It starts with me waking up naked in a cold bath" he says matter of factly,
"not a great way to introduce yourself to a strange crew…"
He has lost all his memory, and in the adjacent room he discovers a bloody corpse. Did
he dun it?
Although Sewell’s father is an Australian animator (who went to work in London in
the 50s) this is Sewell’s first trip here. And the job’s great. "It’s
even better than I had imagined," he says. "Many science fiction films are not
as challenging; this is really a film noir and a psycho thriller."
"Films that inspire me have some element of
illusion" Writer/director Alex Proyas
Writer director Alex Proyas, one of Australia’s most elusive film makers, explains
why, during lunch break.
"I like to do unusual and interesting things, but I also find it infuriating. The
stories I like to tell inherently make use of special effects. Films that inspire me have
some element of illusion; you have to concentrate on detail, which I hate - I prefer to go
with the flow. But …" he sips his coffee over the words unsaid.
Dark City is a complex story, about shadow-like figures, The Strangers, who manipulate
reality. They even move the city each night….but John Murdoch is also imbued with
this strange power, so he alone is able to resist their control over his mind. And he
discovers that his memories - and reality as he knows it - are artificial creations.