Family drama with a genetic twist.
, 02 May 2010
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star in the most interesting family drama Ive seen in a long while. They play Clive and Elsa, a young couple, who live and work together and are planning their future. They have a baby. They watch her grow, educate her, and try to keep her safe; they become parents. The couple are having a tough time, trying to figure out their relationships with their own parents and siblings, and with each other. As a family drama built on the interaction of human relationships, it can definitely hold its own. What makes this more than interesting is the fact that their child isnt human; its a human/ animal hybrid created in a laboratory.
Splice has been marketed as a Sci-Fi Thriller/ Horror and it has excited geek audiences across the country. Thats not surprising. The production carries a lot of credibility: written and directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube/Nothing) and produced by Guillermo Del Toro (Pans Labyrinth). It has gained so much interest that, as the London Sci-Fi Film Festivals opening night film, it ran in two screens simultaneously from one roll of film.
But Im sure theyre missing a trick here. We live in the 21st Century where scientists have already created designer babies. We can screen for potentially life-threatening conditions and diseases, and choose the sex of our children. So why is Splice restricted to the realms of Science Fiction? The echoes of Frankenstein are obvious. Clive and Elsa are named after the actors who played the roles of Dr Frankenstein and his bride. They make a creature; they bring it to life, it runs riot. In our world, where we live at a molecular level, sewing arms and legs onto a torso just wont hold our attention. Natali worked alongside geneticists whilst writing this film, as he wanted the science bit to at least be plausible. When he asked if human/animal hybrid testing is possible, they replied Oh, they're doing it already. In the U.K. they absolutely are making animal/human hybrids. Science yes, Fiction No: this is not only possible, its already happening.
Lets ignore for a moment that Dren (Delphine Chaneac), the creature, was born in a laboratory, because thats just IVF. So what do we have? We have film dealing with life and death; about the responsibility of creating human life and bringing it into this world. Everything relates to these cycles. We watch the birth of one creature and the death of others. Theres cuteness; theres dark, sarcastic comedy; theres obviously the geeky science; and sticky and gooey blood; but it all balances out. It undulates between the themes, swinging back and forth like a pendulum building the tension towards the final, gruesome climax. And looking back Natali lays out the clues for the final showdown, if youre watching, you already know whats in store, and anticipations the killer.
I can imagine that opinion on this film is going to be divided. Not about the performances or the effects, which were all incredible, but whether creating something even remotely close to human is a good thing. Natali encourages the audience to believe that Dren is human, but clearly shes not. Or maybe shes human at an animal level, and without knowing how to teach something to be human, were lost. Its the human qualities in us that set us apart from animals. Frankenstein was written as a warning of industrial advancements, Splice warns us against the advancement of science; who knows where our imagination will lead us. The challenging ethics, the questions raised could be way too horrific, but they are handled delicately; its a totally satisfying film. So Im wondering whether the marketing team should have pitched this film at the Independent film audiences instead. Having the Sci-Fi tag does it a disservice: its a pretty tough family drama, set, in part, in a laboratory.
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