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PREDESTINATION – CINEMATIC, EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL … SCI-FI

At the August 6, 2014 session of his Movies Now course* - three weeks prior to its commercial release (Aug. 28, 2014) - Andrew L. Urban screened Predestination for the 70 participants. It wasn’t the fact that it was the 150th film in the history of Movies Now that engaged the crowd, it was the film’s exceptional cinematic qualities and its emotionally powerful rendition of (Australian-made) sci-fi. 

To discuss the film with the participants, Andrew invited the film’s editor, Matt Villa and multi-titled, multi-screen writer and lecturer, Mike Jones, both of whom provided valuable insights into the film itself and the genre. Many of the participants added their own perspectives on what is one of the most accomplished and engaging Australian films of the decade.

The film stars Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor, and chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career for all eternity. Now, on his final assignment, the Agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

"an unconventional journey"

Writer/director/producer Michael Spierig characterises the narrative of Predestination as ‘an unconventional journey. It’s essentially like five or six films—an action film, a detective movie... and then it turns into an intimate drama about somebody telling their life story to a bartender.’ Producer Paddy McDonald adds, ‘It’s going to mean different things to different people. It’s taking ideas from academia and philosophy and theology and playing with them—it tells a time travel story in a way that’s never been told before.’

The brothers cast Ethan Hawke, who accepted immediately but asked in email “What part am I playing?” to which the brothers replied: “Dunno yet. We’ll work it out.”

But making that decision raised a difficult question: how should the dual casting/double gender role of The Unmarried Mother and Jane be cast?

Should the part of The Unmarried Mother and Jane be one part or should the two roles be played by two actors of two different genders? “What we thought was the most interesting choice was if we could find one actor who could play both parts, and that was in some ways a frightening prospect: what if you don’t pull it off? The whole movie falls apart,” recalls Michael. They opted for Sarah Snook – a sensational choice, as it turns out.

"simultaneously entertain you and leave you with a subcurrent of something to think about"

Ethan Hawke sums up the appeal of the film in describing his reasons for signing up for the production and working with the Spierig brothers for a second time: ‘If a movie can simultaneously entertain you and leave you with a subcurrent of something to think about, then that hits the bullseye for me.’

Noah Taylor agrees: ‘It’s not the sort of film that you can just sit back and predict what’s going to happen. As well as being exciting, it’s moving as well: because of Ethan and Sarah’s performances you really feel for the characters and their journey. It is both thought-provoking and entertaining.’

Writer/director/producer (and composer) Peter Spierig first read science fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein’s famous short story “—All You Zombies—” many years ago. The way the story puts a new spin on the time travel genre and turns it on its head thrilled Peter: ‘I had never read a time travel story like that one, and I don’t think there’ll be another time travel story quite like it again.’

“—All You Zombies—” begins with a young man, known as The Unmarried Mother— it’s his true- confession writing pseudonym—who relates his strange life story to a bartender, who is revealed to play a larger part in the story than initially appears to be the case. The story involves several complicated interconnected time travel journeys and the action moves from 1945 to 1993.

Movies Now – through Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education, at Dendy Newtown (Sydney); 6 Wednesdays each course, screening films unannounced, prior to their commercial release, followed by a discussion with a guest (where possible from the film) and led by Andrew Urban.


Published August 21, 2014

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