The science fiction genre is more vibrant and popular than ever. Just last weekend, Gareth Edwards’ original blockbuster The creator debuted in multiplexes nationwide, while more arty films like The beast And Poor things premiered at the 2023 New York Film Festival to near-universal acclaim. Today more than ever, science fiction speaks to our particular moment, when the rise of AI technology amplifies humanity’s universal concerns about identity, aging, and mortality.
The new film of Lion director Garth Davis, Enemy. Taking place in the near future, Enemy focuses on the hen (Lady Bird‘s Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (After Sun(Paul Mescal), a young working-class couple struggling to make ends meet in the heartland of America. Soon, they find themselves faced with a dilemma: Junior has been offered the opportunity to join a prototype space colony and in his place, an AI replica of him will stay with Hen to keep her from feeling too alone. Soon, Hen, Junior, and Junior are doubly struggling with feelings of love, fear, and distrust, and things go south very quickly.
In my conversation with Davis, I asked him what made him adapt Enemywhy AI seems to be the dominant concern in cinema these days, and how his film is different, and surprisingly more hopeful, than other dystopian sci-fi films currently available.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Garth, you’ve said in previous interviews that what pushed you to adapt Enemy was the appeal from within and without. How did you find that balance between addressing the state of marriage while also depicting the state of the planet in the near future?
Garth Davis: The architecture of that, of connecting staff to something as large as climate change, is something that I was really excited about. Because if you do it right, there can be a spirituality in the storytelling; we can feel something that is not in the words. There’s something beneath the surface of the film that makes you feel a deep connection to us on the planet. You find all these lovely rhythms in the actions of the main characters which reflect the actions of the planet.
I guess what I’m really proud of in the movie is that we do all the things that we need to do to move the plot forward. But what emerges from his production is something very cinematic, special and quite spiritual. It was a wonderful challenge that inspired everyone in the film, from the actors to the cinematographer to myself, and influenced every choice we made. We were serving this great mystery while exuding and exercising these deep emotional and allegorical connections that lie just beneath the surface.
AI is appearing in many films recently, from The creator has The beast to the latest film Mission: Impossible, Dead reckoning party 1. Why do you think this is such a fascinating subject to tackle in cinema right now and how Enemy add to this conversation?
With Enemy, I use AI to show how Hen explores her marriage in a really interesting way. We didn’t set out to make a movie about AI, but this allows us to really explore a relationship in a way that we just couldn’t normally do. I think that’s what really excited us.
Additionally, AI raises questions about ethics, our responsibility for sensitive things, and our responsibility to ourselves and our relationships. So there’s a lot of common themes that really stand out because AI is sort of at the center of the story, and it speaks to this spiritual level of consciousness and love.
Additionally, the global warming aspect of the story reflects the passage of time and the sense of urgency that Hen feels throughout the film. At some point in Enemy, Junior asks her if she’s afraid of dying and Hen says that she’s only afraid of death if she’s not ready. She doesn’t want to grow old and realize that her life has failed her, that she hasn’t lived it the way she would have liked to live it.
I’m very aware that dark, dystopian futures are exaggerated in science fiction, but I just thought it was something that also seemed very imminent. I have a feeling we will resolve these issues as soon as possible. This is going to be the reality of how we live.
Have you watched any other sci-fi films from the past for inspiration? Or even non-genre films like Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?who takes a similar no-holds-barred approach to examining a vulnerable marriage?
Of course. As my life goes on, I collect inspiration and stories. There are things that move me, I suppose. When I was younger I did more SEO, but now I don’t really do it anymore. Maybe it will be a painting, or something else, or a life experience that inspires me.
But yes, Virginia Woolf It’s definitely something I brought up (during filming). I love these kinds of films where the performances are so loud and alive and flawed and brave. I really encouraged the actors to remember these kinds of classic performances. With EnemyI really had the chance to kind of bring back all those elements of classic cinema that I grew up with and loved when I was younger.
Everything now seems so manufactured, as if everything had been completely decided before it was made. In a sense, it’s not alive when you see it on screen because someone has already figured out what it is. Yes, you have to make a lot of choices beforehand, but for me, when I go on set, I want to witness something special, something that’s happening at that moment, something that I hadn’t not really imagined while preparing it or even conceptualizing it.
Enemy‘s story is difficult to tell in detail, but I imagine it was trickier for the actors in how they created their performances. What was your process like helping Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal, who play the roles of Hen and Junior?
It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done, but also one of the most exciting things. There are two realities in the film: there is the reality of what viewers see for the first time, and then there is the actual reality of the story, which is gradually revealed throughout the film.
Because of this dichotomy, it affected the actors’ choices. It also affected the way we staged the scenes. So, for example, when an actor turns away from someone, he has the ability to reveal to the audience a secret that is not seen by the other actors. With my cinematographer, Mátyás Erdély, we asked ourselves what was the most exciting way to position the camera to suggest something that is not really happening and to make the audience feel like they don’t know what is happening. happens.
Enemy is different from other dystopian science fiction films in that it ends on a hopeful note. What would you like your film to say to the audience watching it?
I want to wake people up and get them to not take themselves or anything else for granted because they can lose it. We need to evolve, but we need to evolve meaningfully and we need to think about path we evolve and change. Enemy ultimately says that stasis, in any form, is a kind of death. If we do not change in the face of global warming, the planet will die. If we don’t evolve in our relationships, they will disappear too. These themes are very relevant to the story for me.
Enemy is now playing in cinemas nationwide.