Last Update: 05 March 2001


Source: Film Review Magazine

April 2001

Balancing with Bale

Imagine a world without stress, depression or anxiety. Where worry, unhappiness, anger, jealousy and sadness are a memory. Where hate, murder and war doesn't exist. Welcome to Libria, a vast walled city covering the entire future North America, where emotions are suppressed by the drug Equm to eradicate violent feelings. A double daily dose of this mood suppressant is a legally enforced part of everyone's life in Equilibrium, a $35 million fantasy from Miramax starring Christian Bale and Emily Watson. Bale plays John Preston, a top enforceer of the oppressive fascist regime, in writer and director Kurt Wimmer's dystopian nightmare, fashioned in the grand tradition of 1984 and A Clockwork Orange. And Emily Watson plays Mary O'Brien, a Sense Offender who refuses to take the drug, and sends Preston's well-ordered life into a tailspin when he falls in love with her.

Complete with Matrix-type SFX, an enigmatic Big Brother figure named Father controlling this world, and extraordinary Metropolis-style sets, Equilibrium was filmed in Berlin late last year and Film Review was there to quiz Watson, Best Actress Nominee for Breaking the Waves, about her first science fiction movie.

"I've always had this fantasy of standing in a triangular PVC dress and pressing a warp-speed button! Equilibrium is not that type of futuristic fantasy but I've always been intrigued by science fiction and action films and longed to make a movie my boyfriends would voluntarily go and see rather than me telling them they had to!

"I took the part of Mary because, aside from all the rigorous special effects work, the role had some real acting muscle. In that respect it's not too far away from the intense and emotional sacrificial women I've played in the past. I now know why these films take so long to make because the action has to be so precise and it's difficult to maintain your focus sometimes. It has been a real learning experience for me and one I've enjoyed enormously."

It isn't the first time Watson has played alongside Bale - they appeared together in Metroland - and Bale only agreed to co-star when he heard his favourite actress was involved in the project. Watson continues: "Christian has transformed himself into something of an Adonis over the last few years thanks to American Pyscho. But gaining his macho action hero looks hasn't come at the expense of his incredible sensitivity. I adore working with him because he has real authority and is tremendously disciplined in his craft. Mary first encounters Preston when he storms through her door to arrest her for Sense Offences against the state. He terrifies her, yet when he grabs her, there's a flicker of something deeper that has occurred between them. It's a pivotal point in the story because from that moment on he keeps inventing excuses to interrogate her further to disguise the fact he's falling hopelessly in love. Theirs is one of the most unusual courtships in movie history."

As for putting herself in the hands of newcomer director Wimmer (he scripted The Thomas Crown Affair remake), Watson adds, "Kurt's talent as a storyteller is to make things sparse and to the point. He doesn't know the meaning of the word padding. He's an equally efficient director because his one word of advice to me was 'passion'. Mary is very much an illusion to Preston - a person who embodies every one of his awakening ideals. I had to give their brief meetings a resonance beyond the romantic without compromising the shocking secret punchline or ultimate aim of Kurt's vision. Emotion is the one feeling that sets us apart from other animals. It's a great human quality but it's also desperate and difficult That's why Mary focuses her hatred and loathing of the Libria system on Preston and why he becomes obsessive about her. Love and hate are similar emotions after all."

Equilibrium will be released in October by Buena Vista International

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