Purge est un film australien de science-fiction se déroulant dans un futur proche dystopique où le gouvernement a décidé d’utiliser la manipulation génétique pour contrôler la population. Décrit comme cela, on pense immédiatement à Bienvenue à Gattaca mais à part le thème central les deux films n’ont strictement rien à voir. David King, le réalisateur, n’aime pas l’Australian Film Industry et a donc fait son film de façon indépendante. Quand on parle de cinéma indépendant, cela réfère généralement à des films à petit budget produits en marge des circuits des grands studios. Mais ces films ne sont généralement pas réellement indépendants, ils sont toujours produits par des personnes ou des studios tierces, aussi modestes soient-ils. David King lui est producteur, directeur et réalisateur de son film, lui permettant d’assurer ses choix artistiques et le faisant assumer seul la réussite ou l’échec de Purge.
Malheureusement, arrive un moment où l’indépendance butte sur un obstacle de taille : la distribution. Et qui peut mieux distribuer un film que le seul studio réellement indépendant des Etats-Unis, le seul à produire, réaliser et distribuer un film de A à Z ? Troma Entertainment bien entendu ! Le studio est spécialisé dans les films gores à petit budget et Purge, qui n’a pourtant rien à voir avec des classiques de Troma comme Toxic Avenger, a tapé dans l’oeil Lloyd Kaufman, son fondateur. Purge sera donc distribué en début d’année 2011 et n’est pour l’instant visible que dans des festivals ou en DVD pour des critiques.
Revenons à l’histoire de Purge. Le gouvernement a donc trouvé une parade au manque de main d’oeuvre dans certains secteurs. Chaque individu est “produit” artificiellement en cuve et programmé pour un métier, métier qu’il accomplira dès sa majorité. La programmation génétique n’étant pas un art parfait, il arrive que certains passent outre la leur ou ne sont tout simplement pas en mesure d’accomplir leur métier. Ils sont appelés “Strays” et vivent en marge de la société, quand ils arrivent à échapper au gouvernement. L’héroïne est une jeune fille destinée à devenir dominatrice sado-maso, métier qui ne semble pas lui convenir d’autant plus qu’elle subit certaines influences extérieures. Je ne m’étendrai pas plus sur le scénario mais sachez qu’il est plus complexe qu’il n’y paraît, David King n’étant pas tombé dans les travers faciles des bons révolutionnaires (les fameux “Strays”) contre le méchant gouvernement.
Qui dit réalisateur produisant lui-même son film, dit budget extrêmement serré. 33000 dollars australien (~25000€) auront suffit à acheter l’équipement cinématographique et les costumes, monter le film, créer un site web et presser les DVD. Je ne sais pas si les acteurs plus ou moins amateurs ont été payé, mais ils jouent correctement. Quand aux décors, ils sont très dépouillés et rappellent par exemple THX 1138 (utilisation de fonds blancs). En fait cette “absence” de décor fait plus penser à du théâtre filmé qu’à un film mais heureusement David King a utilisé pleins d’astuces pour dynamiser l’ensemble. Là où d’autres réalisateurs changent de plan 3 fois par seconde ou tournent à 100 à l’heure autour d’un combat, lui n’est pas tombé dans ces techniques faciles et particulièrement pénibles (à mon goût). A la place, il a introduit des extraits de journaux télévisés, des publicités, des interviews ou encore filmé l’action du point de vue d’une caméra de sécurité. Ce n’est pas le premier à utiliser ces procédés expérimentaux, mais cela contribue bien à l’ensemble et permet d’expliquer l’univers d’une manière intelligente.
Frank, un autre critique, décrit Purge comme étant un “must see” pour les fans de Cyberpunk. Je ne suis pas autant enthousiasme car le film possède très peu de “visuels” cyberpunk mais la façon de filmer, de narrer l’histoire, les personnages et les thèmes abordés en font un film pas purement cyberpunk, mais s’en approchant grandement. Au final, si vous n’êtes pas rebuté par l’aspect “ultra low budget” et expérimental, Purge est un très bon film qui a su tirer profil de ses faiblesses.
J’ai interviewé David King avant d’avoir vu le film. Voici l’interview :
# CP 2021 : You mention Willian Gibson and William S. Burroughs, these are not little names that are thrown to the wind, these are big references. How Purge and your work reflects these influences ?
# David King : First, let me say that I was surprised and flattered when Frank Schonefield referred to William Gibson and William S. Burroughs in relation to PURGE.
But I was in fact, directly or indirectly, influenced by these writers in creating the style of the film. What I see as the truncated and staccato literary style of William Gibson finds, I think, an on-screen parallel in the often truncated and staccato style of storytelling in PURGE. This is not to say it’s the same as, for example, Idoru but that I was, unconsciously or otherwise, influenced to some extent by the style of that book in creating the storytelling style for PURGE.
Likewise, my film and sound editing style was often influenced by the literary cut-up experiments of William S. Burroughs. Again, this is not to say PURGE is like anything William S. Burroughs wrote (I have his collected works in Word Virus) but that I was inspired by his style when cutting the film. Had I not encountered his literary cut ups, I may not have created and used the often jittery and unusual style of cutting I did.
Just as many of Burroughs’ literary works were experiments, so too, was PURGE an experiment in cinematic style and technique. PURGE was made for around A$33.000 - actually less because that figure includes posters and website development - no ‘real’ money at all for a feature film. So I was obliged to explore the avant garde as a way of making the film at all.
Naturally, I did not want to copy Gibson or Burroughs but to springboard from being inspired by what they had done to creating my own unique style.
Therefore, storytelling style, and editing style and technique are the two most obvious places in the film to look for the influences of the likes of Gibson and Burroughs. But they are not direct influences, for I never copy.
I was also inspired by the likes of Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, and George Lucas’s THX 1138. But again, I did not copy them.
# CP 2021 : Frank Schonefield describes Purge as a “must see” in the area of cyberpunk. Cyberpunk’s lovers are very difficult. There is one movie, Blade Runner, who is considered to be “the definitive cyberpunk movie”. There are others who are very good but not as good as Blade Runner. So how you considere Purge ? It’s completely different movie ? It has a good correlation to cyberpunk themes ?
# D. K. : I believe the reason why Frank Schonefield associated PURGE with cyberpunk is because of it’s highly unconventional cinematic style which makes liberal use of text and titles, mock commercials, mock news broadcasts, current affairs interviews, surveillance camera footage, pirate transmissions, jittery cutting and images within images. I also drew on the experimental theatre technique of using blank spaces or empty sets instead of creating a ‘real’ world for the characters to inhabit.
Even the choice of actors was an experiment. I used actors of varying abilities to capture various stages of program breakdown. No two breakdowns are the same because under all the programming, individualism still exists. The government and genetic engineering companies could not destroy it, no matter what they did, so the the film’s subtext is that the entire genetic engineering revolution is doomed to fail.
Very few of the techniques mentioned above are used in conventional feature films (a notable exception for blank sets being George Lucas’s THX-1138).
Conventional feature films (and, yes, Blade Runner is one of them even though it may be regarded as the one ‘true’ cyberpunk film - it still tells a story in a conventional manner) generally attempt to involve an audience with a character and his/her journey and eliminate anything that gets in the way of that audience involvement.
I, on the other hand, sought to make the style and technique of the film the “star” with the story of the characters and their journey sometimes acting as a mere clothesline on which to hang visual and aural ideas. I also fragmented the central story, leaving large chunks of it to the audience imagination - another unusual thing for a feature film to do. In other words, I was out to create a kind of cyberpunk style rather than delve into cyberpunk themes.
The only way PURGE relates to cyberpunk themes are in its depiction (or rather, its suggestion) of a dystopian world where people are artificially created by genetic engineering companies and programmed for roles in life and the consequences if one fails to assume their pre-ordained role.
# CP 2021 : From a simplistic view, Purge is Gattaca with ultra low budget (yes it’s very simplistic). There is at least a common plot between both (evil government who try to create and control the perfect society with the help of bio-engineering) and it was use before. In a other interview you say “And strive to do something no one else has ever done before, otherwise, what’s the point?”. I know it’s very hard to be original with hundred of movies releases each years so how Purge distinguishes itself ?
# D. K. : Yes, it would be simplistic to describe PURGE as Gattaca with an ultra-low budget because once again, Gattaca (and I happen to love that film as much as I love Blade Runner) is a conventional mainstream feature film which seeks to tell a story about characters on a journey and which subordinates style and technique to the story and characters, whereas PURGE subordinates story and character to style and technique.
It is entirely due to the unconventional style of storytelling and use of unconventional cinematic techniques that PURGE distinguishes itself from just about any other science fiction, quasi-science fiction, or cyberpunk feature film - at least the ones we have discussed and others I know of. Obviously, not every minute of the film could be unconventional but I believe it has a strong claim to originality in the field for these reasons. (N.B This is one of the main reasons why Troma Entertainment picked up the film for distribution - they believed it was a “true original”).
I don’t wish to come across as arrogant in my claims for PURGE. Indeed, I believe it’s a question of individual taste as to whether the film works or not, whether or not one likes it, or even if one regards it as cyberpunk at all. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There are people who love the film and people who hate it. In making the statements above, I’ve simply attempted to set out, as clearly as possible, what I tried to achieve with the film and what I feel it does achieve. Others may disagree. That is their right.
It’s also important to note that I not only wrote and directed this film, but also produced it, was co-cinematographer, did the production design, sound design, and editing, and was co-vfx creator. Very few feature films - and certainly no conventional Hollywood features - are made in this manner by largely one person.
# CP 2021 : Did you not afraid that the film suffers from the same criticisms that brainless blockbusters (all to “style” or visual effects and only a little to story and characters) ?
# D. K. : No, I don’t have that fear because many people who have already seen the film and have DVDs have said that they’ve watched it four or five times and want to watch it again because every viewing reveals something new, something they didn’t see on previous viewings. They tell me they find the film multi-layered and fascinating. The problem with blockbusters being all style is that everything is on the surface and there’s nothing much below it, whereas in PURGE, people have said there are many different layers of meaning and you gain new insights on each viewing.
# CP 2021 : Tetsuo is another famous cyberpunk movie. It’s unconventional in its own way but maybe in a different way that Purge. So do the two movies can be compared ?
# D. K. : I have never seen Tetsuo - at least I don’t remember the name although I have seen a lot of Japenese anime films - so I really can’t compare the two films. Perhaps you could have a look and see if there’s any comparison ?
# CP 2021 : A$33.000 is nothing for a big movie company but a lot for one person. Because of unconventional style, Purge will perhaps not be profitable. Have you already think of that ?
# D. K. : Yes, it did occur to me but the most important thing was to establish myself as an unusual and interesting filmmaker who might get a strong niche audience. I’ve no objection to money (it would certainly help!) but I feel too much is done today in too many fields solely for the motive of profit. On the other hand, $33,000 means it doesn’t have to earn so much to break even or even turn a tiny profit.
# CP 2021 : A more general question about cyberpunk. From a socio-political view, do you think the future is cyberpunk ?
# D. K. : I think the future certainly does have elements of cyberpunk and I don’t think people of the present generations are going to enjoy it much. But they’ll tend to grumble and go along with it rather than fight it, especially in Australia which is incredibly apathetic. Eventually, a generation will rise which will either throw it all out or become even more cyberpunk-orientated, having known nothing else all their lives. Just look at the swing to right wing governments throughout Europe and the austerity measures even in France. If it’s not the beginning of something quite horrible, I don’t know what it is. Social welfare is a measure of civilization. It’s been said that a nation can be rated on how well it treats its poor and the steps it takes to alleviate poverty. Regarding pollution, I can’t see developed nations doing anything great in the near future and we’ve already lost two thirds of the world’s coral reefs which will take at least 200 years to grow back even if we were to stop all polluting activities this very minute. The seas are also grossly overfished, and pollution in many cities around the world is regarded as dangerous, So we’re certainly heading in a “cyberpunk” direction. As a filmmaker, I’m trying to say : STOP !