In a rare occurrence for a filmmaker, David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Spread) has two films released within weeks of each other, and on first glance they couldn’t be more different. You Instead is a light-hearted foray into the headiness of a music festival, filmed over five days at T in the Park with rising stars Natalia Tena and Luke Treadaway. Perfect Sense on the other hand sees Mackenzie team up with Hollywood names Ewan Macgregor and Eva Green in a romantic drama with an apocalyptic edge. He speaks to Dazed about both films, his desire to find fresh approaches to filmmaking and why you won’t find him doing a comic book adaptation any time soon.
Dazed Digital: You Instead was shot in five days, that is an incredibly short space of time to make a film, why did you decide to do it that way?
David Mackenzie: The idea was to try to create a sense of immersion in the world of a music festival and so you kind of had to be there. Festivals don't last 5 weeks; you have to concentrate your efforts on the time that it's there. You can't recapture 100,000 people in the mud and the mayhem and all the magic. We were living and breathing the whole thing and it's hard to imagine how you could ever do it any other way. I mean, 100,000 extras - you would have to be one of the old Russian filmmakers who were able to use whole towns to do that.
DD: And what was the experience like?
David Mackenzie: It's very invigorating, certainly for me I find whenever I start recognising the shape of the process it starts getting boring. I've made 7 feature films and loads of shorts and I've started recognising the patterns of the process. If you can adjust the process in some way and reclaim it for something fresh it suddenly starts to become fun again.
DD: You Instead also features some great live music performances, do you have a favourite from the film?
David Mackenzie: At the centre of the movie is a lovely acoustic song by Jo Mango which I think is really beautiful. It forms the centre piece of the film, at the point in the story where the film suddenly becomes Midsummer Night’s Dream in a weird sort of way, with all these couples coming together and pairing off in that twilight that you get in these late summer nights.
DD: Perfect Sense on the other hand is something entirely different, the story of an epidemic that leads to people losing their senses…
David Mackenzie: I was very conscious of not wanting to do a bombastic Hollywood apocalypse movie, you could have gone that way but this felt like a much more poetic take on that. We’re trying to tell a massive global story, essentially, through two people who are falling in love with each other whilst everything else is falling apart. To begin with we were trying to avoid the idea of presenting it as a downer because I think it’s an extremely life-affirming movie but there is an element of time running out too.
DD: Looking back over your films to date, you’ve worked across a whole variety of different subject matter, genre and tone, is that a deliberate move on your part to keep things fresh?
David Mackenzie: Yes, is the answer to that. I don’t have any urge to try and repeat [myself] but also no urge to try and do genre films. A lot of directors in Britain tend to be into the fanboy thing and they love their comics and genres. I want to distance myself from that because I think it’s become such a dominant force. We’re now in this crazy world where you have to have either grim realism or computer game fantasy and all the stuff I like is somewhere quite distinctly in between those two things.
'You Instead' is out now and 'Perfect Sense' TBC