Terry Gilliam, director of 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', '12 Monkeys' and 'Brazil'

Terry Gilliam Interview

Terry Gilliam

I recently read an interview with the director of some of my favourite films, Terry Gilliam. This link (found on the brilliant Hero Complex WordPress site) has some of the longer quotations from the man himself that didn’t quite make it into the full interview. He wields the axe quite liberally, launching attacks on several established figures and franchises within Hollywood.

The first of these is an attack on the ever-easy to criticise, Michael Bay. Gilliam rehashes a familiar line here stating:

The audience is totally excluded, you just sit there and watch the explosions

Although this has been a point that has been made regularly by critics of Bay’s films, it is one that still is worthy of mentioning. It seems that he believes there can be no balance struck between action and plot; rather than allowing one to enhance the other, he has produced films that are a series of formulaic special effects set pieces rather than a coherent plot. The result of this is a sterile, uninvolved watching experience which fails to engage the viewer. In the case of his Transformers films, this seems to be a terrible waste, given the source material he has at his disposal.

His quotes about the cinematography of Cameron and Spielberg are interesting as they give the reader an insight into his style. He comments on the almost back to basics approach, that is juxtaposed with that of Bay’s:

To me it’s always been about the ideas. It’s not the technical skill because I’ve been limited in that.

Gilliam’s tendency to work without big budgets is fairly well-known within the industry – there is a famous story of Bruce Willis working without being paid during filming for 12 Monkeys so he could work with Gilliam. (Brilliant film, for those who haven’t seen it. Be sure to check out La Jetee too, though)

Gilliam’s most comments, however, are the ones regarding the work of Christopher Nolan. He comments on the sterility of the world’s of Inception and Gotham:

And what’s interesting about the films are they are asexual. Maybe that’s the problem. Women can represent danger in them but no one seems to be having sex in these movies. 

Upon consideration, you realise that there is a striking lack of sexual interaction in any of the aforementioned films. In Inception, both Ariadne and Mal play prominent roles and yet neither are presented in a manner indicative of a sexual relationship between themselves and the other characters. Similarly in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Bruce’s romantic interest, Rachel Dawes is shown in a purely Platonic light. The reasoning behind this is difficult to pin down: perhaps Nolan feels that including a sexual relationship in his films would be a cheapening of his art, or perhaps the lack of sexual interest is indicative of the fragile psyches of the protagonists of his films. However, I suspect this may change in the hotly-anticipated 2012 release of  The Dark Knight Rises, as where Selena Kyle is to be found, a confused an frustrated Bruce Wayne is sure to follow. And with Anne Hathaway picking up the mantle, I for one, am hoping for a change in Nolan’s style.


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