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ex_machina_ver2JUST A MAN IN THE MACHINE.

An interview with EX MACHINA writer/director, Alex Garland.

Sitting across from writer/novelist – and now director – Alex Garland is a bit daunting. Though EX MACHINA marks the first time he’s sat in the director’s chair, he’s been working in the film industry as a screenwriter for many, many years now and there’s a certain level of confidence and understanding that could only come from that kind of experience.

And the fact that this surprises people is partially why Garland is not a fan of the auteur theory – the idea that creative credit/ownership of a film belongs (almost) solely with the director. “It’s bullshit,” he says. “I’ve got very tired of the stuff that comes with the reflexively offering [creative ownership of films] to the director. I’m tired of it because I don’t think it’s true. In my working experience it’s not true. I know too much about what directors of photography do, what production designers, sound designers do. I just know too much for me to be able to accept it.” Working as a screenwriter on five films now – and a director on one of those – he feels that we deitize directors too much, and give credit to “auteurs” instead of the many, many collaborators it’s owed to.


Garland is obviously an outspoken guy – especially about things he believes in – so he went on to talk about the sci-fi genre, which most of his screen work seems to deal in, and why it appeals to him. “Sci-fi audiences are very open-minded,” he says. “If you present big, overtly philosophical ideas – as are contained within this movie [EX MACHINA] – in say, an adult drama, people are embarrassed of it. They feel it’s either pretentious or sophomoric. They sort of recoil, or cringe slightly, and in sci-fi they don’t do that – they’re open, they want it. I like that. I find it liberating.”

And he’s right. Sci-fi audiences are far more willing to suspend their disbelief and sit back and accept what a filmmaker is presenting to them than other genres can be. That being said, it’s not the only genre worth exploring – as he has also done work in both horror and action as well – so I asked him what genres he might be interested in delving into he hasn’t yet. “If there was a genre I was going to try at some point, it would probably be a political thriller.” He went on, “You know, those 70’s movies – PARALLAX VIEW, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. When those are gripping there’s just something wonderful about them. The way they function. The way they operate. That lovely 70’s paranoia.”

As a guy who writes a lot about human nature – 28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE and EX MACHINA are all films about trapping humans in tight spaces and seeing what they do to one another – paranoia is just something that just fascinates him. “We’ve got a lot of reason, at the moment, to be paranoid as people were in the 70’s post-Nixon. You shouldn’t trust big tech companies. It doesn’t matter whether you know they’re doing anything wrong or not – they’re so powerful, that the correct position to take on them is distrust. It’s never, ever, ever a good idea for humans to have unmodified power. Ever.”

It’s interesting hearing him brazenly talk about these big ideas because you can clearly see him play with these same ideas and many more – masculinity, gender, nature vs. technology, etc. – in his excellent directorial debut EX MACHINA. It’s a film without a lot on its mind because clearly, even outside of film, he’s a man with a lot to say. But even better, he’s a man with the skill and boldness to execute it. We could use more filmmakers like him.

EX MACHINA is now playing.

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