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In the upcoming graphic and violent, post-apocalyptic thriller ‘The Divide’, nine strangers — all tenants of a New York high rise apartment — escape a nuclear attack by hiding out in the building’s bunker-like basement. Trapped for days underground with no hope for rescue, and only unspeakable horrors awaiting them on the other side of the bunker door, the group begins to descend into madness, each turning on one another with physical and psychotic torment.
As supplies dwindle, and tensions flare, and they grow increasingly unhinged by their close quarters and hopelessness, each act against one another becomes more depraved than the next. While everyone in the bunker allows themselves to be overcome by desperation and lose their humanity, one survivor holds onto a thin chance for escape even with no promise of salvation on the outside.
The director, French Xavier Gens, who directed the feature version of the game ‘Hitman’, explained his choice to direct ‘The Divide’, starring Michael Biehn, Lauren German and TV ‘Heroes’ ‘s Milo Ventimiglia.
What originally drew you to the project?
I received the script (previously named Shelter) written by Karl Mueller and the concept of the basement shelter really attracted me. I spoke with producers, Ross M. Dinerstein and Darryn Welch about giving the movie a larger scope by opening the film with a nuclear explosion as the catalyst. We hired Eron Sheean to help rewrite the script and weave in that element throughout the film.
How do you the feel the film fits in with your previous work?
For me, The Divide is like my first real feature. Frontier(s) was a film with a lot of influence and Hitman was a studio movie. The Divide was a true indie film with a crew and cast of passionate people working on the film. It was a dream to do that film in that environment and made it easy for me to give the best I had to make the film. Filming The Divide has been my best experience as a filmmaker and I have met great friends on that set. From the crew to the producers and Anchor Bay Films, everyone has been really amazing and really supportive.
Were there any other films or filmmakers you drew inspiration from while making the film?
Not really, but there is a subtle tribute to John Carpenter in The Divide. One of the characters is named Sam Carpenter and there is a piece of music by Jean Pierre Taieb, which was inspired by the score of Ennio Morricone for The Thing.
Can you tell us how you assembled such a diverse cast?
It was a long casting process, but once we found everyone, it was fantastic working with such an amazing cast. It was very important to find actors who were ready to take risks and willing to embrace the extreme situations and also ready to improvise.
Sometimes there was some tension between the actors because they were all on diets to lose weight for their roles and there are several scenes in the film showing the escalating conflict. Instead of calming down the tension, it was very interesting to play with the natural emotions to push the performances and to catch that tension on camera instead.
How do you feel the film speaks about human nature?
The film is speaking about the end of humanity and shows how you can easily lose your humanity in extreme situations. I don’t want the film to give a lesson but just show the audience what happens when a small group of people are trapped in an extreme situation; like seeing a laboratory experiment with white mice.
How was the experience of making the film independently different from your studio work?
It was the best experience, I had total freedom. The version that is being released in theaters this January is the director’s cut and I want to thank my producers and Anchor Bay Films again for supporting me in that adventure. I’ve had a situation where I lost control of a film with the studio and it was very tough for me, and I almost decided to stop making movies. With The Divide, it’s like a rebirth for me. There is a place where you can express yourself and work with total freedom, and I want to work only in that environment.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
I hope the audience will leave the theater reminded that life is beautiful. I feel the last scene of the film is like Baudelaire poetry, it’s dark, bleak and a little depressing, but beautiful.
The Divide will be in theaters this January 13.
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