Vincenzo Natali's Sundance Diary: December 5, 2009

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
[With his latest directorial effort, Splice, due to take its North American bow at the 2010 Sundance Festival, Vincenzo Natali has graciously agreed to give an insider's view of the festival experience with an exclusive series of festival diaries posted here on Twitch.  Welcome to entry number one.  Accompanying image hand drawn by Natali, circa 2000.]

It's two days after the official announcement that my film, SPLICE, has been invited to the midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival. This is very good news for the battle-weary SPLICE team. It has been a decade since the first aborted attempt to make the film.  In that same period, the real science that inspired SPLICE advanced exponentially (as an example, it took scientists less time to map the human genome than it did for me to make my movie).  One can't help but feel a little inadequate. Nonetheless, after years of struggle, waging war with money and technology and the human instinct for self-preservation, we have ascended the summit. The movie has been birthed. Whatever it is... be it good, bad or indifferent, Dren, the beautiful monster-star of SPLICE, exists, with all six toes intact.

For those who do not know, SPLICE is a meditation on the relationship between creature and creators. The story revolves around two brilliant geneticists (played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody) who create hybrid organisms spliced from the genes of various animals.  Their research has medical applications, and being young and adventurous, they target the top of the food chain: human DNA. Needless-to-say, mayhem ensues. But what makes SPLICE unique is that the true nature of the horror is emotional. And the ties that bind the scientists to their manufactured offspring is familial.

It is fusion of these two strands of cinematic DNA: creature feature and relationship story, that excited me about SPLICE. It's also what made it a very hard film to finance.  Studios (and believe me, I met with every one them) were uncomfortable with the bizarre love triangle that formed the core of the story. And yet given the cost of creating Dren, a creature who we watch grow from a single cell to a fully mature adult, SPLICE was never going to be a low budget affair.  Most of my ten years seeking this personal grail was spent on my knees. Begging for money.

This is the reason that I love France. The Gauls have given us fine food and wine, great art, literature, philosophy... an unhealthy appreciation of Jerry Lewis. And now you can add Dren to that list.  It was only when Gaumont (France's oldest film studio) showed interest that I dared to believe SPLICE would really become more than a script gathering dust in my office. It probably helps that the French are not squeamish about sex, and when confronted with human-hybrid relations... pourquoi pas? Add to that the involvement of the ubiquitous and magnificent Guillermo Del Toro, who championed the film in the States, and my extraordinary producer Steve Hoban along with Telefilm Canada, and I had an unholy trifecta of passion from across the globe, without which the impossible would never have been possible.

SPLICE is, therefore, a France-Canada coproduction. An independent film in the truest sense, made far from the prying hands of Hollywood, and with the gentle but firm support of producers who fully endorsed my final cut. As such, I think Sundance, as purveyors of the indie spirit, is a good home. We shall see...

(SPLICE's North American Premiere will be on January 22 at midnight in the Egyptian Theater, Park City.)


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