Exclusive Interview: Xavier Gens Discusses The Divide and More
If you had the privilege of catching Xavier Gens’ The Divide during its limited theatrical release earlier this year, you’ll most likely agree that it is one of the more provocative genre films of this year.
Starring Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren German, Michael Ecklund, Rosanna Arquette and Courtney B. Vance, The Divide follows a group of survivors locked inside a basement after a bomb is released in New York but unlike a lot of post-apocalyptic stories, Gens’ exploration of the darkest elements of humanity proves that surviving the apocalypse isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and the lucky ones in this tale are the ones who died in the blast.
With The Divide finally heading home for its DVD and Blu-Ray release courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment this week, Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat with Gens about his latest film and heard from the filmmaker about why this movie was unlike most other post-apocalyptic movies being made these days as well as more about the difficulties making the film and what’s coming up next for him.
Check out our interview with Gens below and make sure to check out The Divide once it hits DVD and Blu-Ray shelves everywhere later this week!
Dread Central: I’d love to start off talking a bit about the story; we’ve been watching post-apocalyptic movies for decades now and yet, I don’t know if I’ve seen once that has been quite as harrowing and visceral as The Divide; frankly, I don’t think I’d want to survive a major catastrophe now based on this and that seems to be part of the lesson here.
Xavier Gens: Yeah, we make it a point to show people that the ones who die early on were the lucky ones in this story. But I really feel like The Divide speaks volumes about where our world is, or at least where it was at in 2010 when we made it. When I first read the script, I saw The Divide as a slasher movie set inside a basement that had this brilliant political context wrapped up inside of it. Ever since the economic crisis hit, it seems like we’ve lost a little of our own humanity along the way so that’s what I wanted to explore- that loss of humanity and how these people trapped in the basement evolve into a micro-fascist society.
We don’t like to talk about it but as a whole, human beings are selfish by nature- we can’t help it; it’s who we are and when the world ends, it’s going to be that selfishness that will keep people alive. Or at least alive in terms of simple biology but if the world does end and you’re forced to live like the people in The Divide, I don’t know ‘alive’ any of them really were. A lot of movie glorify these kinds of events but I wanted to really explore the idea that if the world suffers some sort of major destruction, maybe you don’t want to be around to see what happens.
Dread Central: There’s a moment in the film when everyone trapped in the basement thinks that ‘salvation’ has arrived when they get discovered by a group of but I like how you give that moment a twist and go for tension and fear rather than hope for these characters.
Xavier Gens: Oh yes, those characters that come into the basement represent the worldwide government and what kind of hope and fear they can give people. When they arrive, you think that one thing is going to happen and all they want is to find all of the surviving children so that the world would have a chance to thrive in the future. There’s no hope for the rest of them and that’s something they all have to face early on. But when we reveal just what happens to the children, it’s not pretty either so it’s hard to say who is better off in the end- the children being tested on or the adult survivors left to fend for themselves.
Dread Central: I had interviewed Michael Biehn back when The Divide was getting ready for its theatrical release and he talked about how hard this shoot was on everyone, to the point where tensions were running high between everyone and it seemed like everyone was really at each other’s throats. How bad did it get for you as the director? Did you see your cast evolving like that as well?
Xavier Gens: Honestly, The Divide was not an easy experience for anyone involved. I mean, it was amazing to go through all of that with these brilliant actors but none of us had it easy making this movie. I pushed everyone but the entire cast really brought their best game with them. We did a lot of improv moments while shooting because I noticed that as we got further along in shooting, the cast became immersed deeper and deeper into this world and I wanted to just let them have free reign.
But the entire cast jumped right into The Divide head first and I’ve never had an experience quite like I did making this movie. There were a lot of tense moments because I think the way we shot and being down in that basement began to creep into everyone’s psyches as time kept passing.; I couldn’t be prouder of the performances everyone gave though- especially Milo. I know he went through hell on this; I called him our ‘lion in a cage’ because that’s how his temperament was while shooting. He was very intense because he really went deep into this role and I think maybe that scared some people on set but that’s just Milo wanting to give everything to this role; he was just totally ‘in.’
And I do think when we wrapped on The Divide that the entire cast all pretty much hated each other but that’s because the tensions were always running high. It had to be that way or there’s no way the movie would have worked as well as it did. Thankfully now that it’s been a while, everyone has made amends with each other and I think it’s the kind of stuff we can laugh about now.
Dread Central: Without giving too much away, can you discuss the direction of the film’s final act and the decision to go in the direction of an ending that was a bit of a downer rather than a happy one.
Xavier Gens: It was so important to me that I didn’t do a Hollywood ending for this movie; it would have never worked. The ending had to make sense and the reality is that there was no fairy tale waiting for these characters outside the basement; the world was destroyed and there’s not much hope out there to be found. It had to make a strong statement and I think it does just that.
There are also some biblical implications with our ending too but I won’t say too much more in case anyone who may read this hasn’t seen it yet.
But I’m a huge fan of Apocalypto and especially the ending because it is so strong; as you see the Spaniard boats arriving near the Mayans, you know that things aren’t going to end well for these people. It’s honest and that’s what you have to do- be true to your story and be honest with your audience.
Dread Central: So what’s coming up next for you then? I heard that you’re planning on working with Michael (Biehn) and his wife Jennifer (Blanc-Biehn) in the future on a few projects if all goes well.
Xavier Gens: I’m working on a couple of American films currently and there’s one I’m hoping we’ll begin this fall that will definitely be within the genre. But yes, I definitely do want to work with Michael again in the future though and we are developing a few things right now together along with Jennifer that will probably happen in the next year or so. They’re both such great people.
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