HN: What gives you creative inspiration for developing the story?
Jérémie Périn: When we work together, we never self-censor ourselves. We are using all the ideas, even the stupidest ones. And most of the time, it’s stupid, but it’s okay because you have to remove all inhibitions in the process.
Sometimes, we have some ideas that we see too much in movies, so we don’t use them. Sometimes, we’re okay with ideas that sounds not so new, because it’s good for the movie. In the end, what is the most efficient for the movie and its purpose is the right idea.
Laurent Sarfati: An effect that can happen is that we misunderstand each other, and from that misunderstanding, a new idea can emerge. That happens quite often.
Jérémie Périn: Of course, my inspiration for the movie I wanted to avoid is Blade Runner (1982), because it’s such a big reference for sci-fi movies. I wanted to quit that, and try to propose something else. That’s why, in the beginning, it could look like Blade Runner with those buildings, the dying Earth, and right after that, we are going to Mars, and Mars does not look at all like Blade Runner. It’s the opposite: It’s really horizontal, shiny and beautiful, but it’s totally artificial because when you’re out of the city, it’s just the Martian desert.
HN: I would like to hear about the visuals. How are you developing the visual design of the film’s universe?
Jérémie Périn: Ideally, I prefer not to think about the design during the writing process, because I know the script can change a lot at any moment. I prefer to preserve the virginity of my vision, and have all the ideas when I know the story is really completed and done.
After that, I think about the design in a pragmatic way. I’m like “Okay, what is the technology used for that robot. Is that robot old or new? How can I show the difference visually that this one is older than that one?”
We also look at science articles to prospect some ideas of new technologies in the future that we could expend and exaggerate for our movies, like how the transportation between Paris and Mars won’t be with rockets, as in other sci-fi movies; we found something else.
Laurent Sarfati: At the very beginning of the writing, we were constantly questioning ourselves about the scientific realism of our story. We ended up meeting with two Martian planetologists, and we asked: “What would the first Martian colony with two million people look like?” They were staring at each other. They studied Mars their whole lives, and they never thought about what a Martian colony would look like.
Jérémie Périn: We asked them where on the planet would be the best place to start a colony, so they had to think about that.
Laurent Sarfati: They opened a program, and they visited Mars on the program, and they say, “Oh yeah, I would put my colony here, there’s water and you can hide yourself in caves to be sheltered from the radiation.” It was fascinating for us and we did exactly that.
HN: What kind of experience or message do you want to deliver via this film to the audience?
Jérémie Périn: I don’t really enjoy movies with messages. I’m more into movies that asks questions to the audience to try to let them think about subjects that they may usually avoid. This movie asks some questions about free will. Do we really have free will? For some of our characters who are robots, they are programmed to think in one way and not another. They have this possibility at some point to crack that code that prohibits them from thinking about absolutely everything. We are questioning: do humans have something like that in their minds?
There are also many other questions asked by the movie, or a subject we are pointing to, like inequality through our society, and people who are used by powerful people.
Laurent Sarfati: There is a political aspect, but it’s really in the background. We don’t want to make a big thing about it. It’s just a background, but it’s important. The world where the story happens is like Elon Musk’s paradise. Mars is like a backup of Earth, which is completely polluted and dying. Now there is this beautiful place on Mars, where everyone is beautiful, rich and young. The truth is, that kind of system doesn’t work. They never work.
HN: So, you are showing one possibility of human society on Earth and Mars. There are of course some social issues the same as what we have now.
Jérémie Périn: We’re talking about our actual world, but exaggerate it and put it in the distant future, as a way of magnifying some aspects of it. Also, you would not be aggressing the audience or the people responsible for that situation by putting it in some virtual, imaginative world. It’s a way for people to step back and have a larger view of the topic. It’s really the subject of the movie, but it’s what we love in science fiction.
It is like with RoboCop. It is an action movie, but if you are scratching the surface, you’ll find some deep questions. Like what is alive, what is dead, what is the soul, who are we… But if you just want to watch an action movie, RoboCop can just be an action movie.
Laurent Sarfati: It’s really important, because even if you don’t pay any attention to its philosophical/political background, that’s what in fact supports all the action. Without that, everything becomes completely hollow.