Canadian first-time director Vincenzo Natali is surprised at the response his debut
film, the mathematically conjured semi-sci-fi thriller, Cube, is receiving. When we spoke,
during the hectic Sundance Film Festival, this deft low budget film was already on the
cusp of international success, having previously won the Best Canadian First Feature award
at the previous Toronto Film Festival. Sundance was to be the film's next port of call,
and Natali sees the value of such a frenetic festival.
"I was not expecting or anticipating any of this, because it is a science-fiction
film, and wasn't certain how festival programmers would respond to that, because there's
so much stigma attached to that genre." At the same time, it's not a Hollywood-style
sci-fi film laden with special effects and gismos. "That's true - it diverges from
the traditional mould of what people accept as science fiction."
"a pragmatic need to make a feature film as expediently
This low-budget science-fiction drama depicts the plight of a group of people clad in
prison-style uniforms and trapped in futuristic cube-like metal cells. Their memories are
hazy; no one can recall how they got there. Alderson (Julian Richings) awakens in a cell,
seeks an exit, and arrives in an adjacent cube where he's sliced and diced. Former cop
Quentin (Maurice Dean-Wint) becomes the group leader, and he's challenged by conspiracy
theorist Dr. Holloway (Nicky Guadagni). Government worker Worth (David Hewlett) remembers
a past government link to the project. A discovery that the cubes have numerical codes
suggests study by math-student Leaven (Nicole deBoer) while prison-experienced thief
Rennes (Wayne Robson) knows some escape tricks.However, the extreme behaviour of Kazan
(Andrew Miller) becomes a threat to their survival.
The film's derivation, Natali says, "came from a pragmatic need to make a feature
film as expediently as possible. I've wanted to make a film for some time, but never
thought that anyone would give me money to do one. So I tried to come up with a concept
that could be done in one set, and I knew it couldn't be anything like My Dinner with
André, because I just don't think I have that kind of movie within me. It therefore
occurred to me: what if I could reuse a set - to have one set double as many - and that's
what led me to think of a maze of identical rooms. Once I had that idea, I just took off,
because as a filmmaker, I love seeing in movies what I love doing, which is creating
worlds and visiting a world that doesn't exist. And Cube is very much that - a whole
environment that has its own rules."
While it is a science fiction thriller, its uniqueness in the genre, apart from its
extraordinary set, is its well-defined collage of characters, which collectively symbolise
humanity with all its foibles. Asked whether Natali is omnipresent within those
characters, he laughingly quips that "I probably relate more to the cube than I do
with any of the characters." He does add that he enjoys "discovering how each of
these characters would respond to this nightmarish situation."
"I was totally fascinated with the idea of a world that
What is also interesting about Cube, is its mathematical tone; it seems to be as much
about solving a mathematical problem as it does about escape. One would assume that Natali
is a passionate mathematician. "I don't have a mathematical bone in my body, but I
was totally fascinated with the idea of a world that is mathematical, and that is so
abstract." Making the film, Natali says, "was a very liberating experience,
because if anything, one of my strong influences are the surrealist painters and
filmmakers like Bunuel and David Lynch, but for me I've reached a point where it was too
easy. I wanted to create a surreal world that made logical sense, and that's what really
excited me about this world."