Talking Cats And Dogs And Serial Killers.
Everybody talks to their pets, right? But what if they talked back? No, I mean REALLY talked back. And what if, for argument’s sake, you one day accidentally killed your co-worker – I know, I know, accidents happen – and your dog was telling you one thing, and your cat was telling you to do the other? Like a little angel and devil sitting on your shoulder. What would you do?
That’s the extraordinary dilemma facing Ryan Reynolds in the new black comedy/thriller, The Voices. He plays Jerry, an “affable singleton”, who works in a bathtub factory. He likes Fiona (Gemma Arterton) and when he sees her car broke down on a lonely road on a rainy night, with her drunk and in need of a ride, he thinks it’s a sign from heaven that their love is meant to be. Yeah, right. Things very quickly go awry and Jerry – well, you know how one thing leads to another – besides his talking cat, Mr Whiskers, and his talking dog, Bosco, he now has Fiona’s severed talking head in his fridge. His psychiatrist (who doesn’t know the half!) is not impressed. But another co-worker, Lisa (Anna Kendrick), is, and is taking a bit of a shine to Ryan. This is not going to end well!
“It’s an original screenplay that’s not formulaic; you don’t know if you should laugh or cry, and I love that!” Says Producer Matthew Rhodes. “I love psychological thrillers and The Voices is unique in that it makes you think, really makes you feel, as we follow Jerry down the rabbit hole and discover he is not the person he thought he was. He struggles because he doesn’t want to be evil.”
Jerry yearns to be accepted. He takes medication but decides the world seems a better and more vibrant place when he’s not popping pills, and makes him see things in a different way. Who wouldn’t want to see ballerinas dancing instead of real life forklift trucks?
“What Jerry wants in life is to be accepted and to be seen by people as a good person, somebody worthy of their friendship, but ultimately he is one of the loneliest guys on earth,” Says Ryan Reynolds. “He is something of a misfit and throughout the course of the movie we find he has a lot of demons and a lot of baggage that he carries around with him all day. He strives to be a good person but walks that thin line between protagonist and antagonist.”
He continues: “I was attracted to the idea that Jerry has these dual natures, the proverbial angel and devil on his shoulders. Mr. Whiskers, who is kind of a Scottish mercenary and the voice of destruction and violence, and Bosco, who sounds a bit like a dim southern gentlemen that voices kindness and compassion, are Jerry’s cat and dog, his dueling natures, he listens to each of them. I don’t particularly think he likes the cat, but Mr. Whiskers serves a purpose in his life [and in Jerry’s warped mind] keeps him safe.”
“This crazy world of Jerry’s was one of the best descriptions of schizophrenia that I ever read.” Says director Marjane Satrapi, who typically only directs what she’s written herself – including the award-winning Persepolis – but couldn’t put down the script for The Voices. “I thought that it was an extremely ambiguous, very unique story … I don’t like so much film reality because I live in reality. I prefer, when I have the opportunity, to create a whole world around something.”
Screenwriter Michael R. Perry hit on the idea while working with consultants from the behavioural profiling unit of the FBI, for a TV show he was working on. “I asked them how do you catch a serial killer who has no apparent motive, and they replied: if we know the movie in his head, what movie he thinks he is in, we can catch him” he says. “That was a very fun thing for me to imagine, the perspective of a guy who is trying to do the very best he can but his perception of the world is very skewed; we are going to take you on a trip and see what Jerry sees.”
And to do that called for a heightened sense of reality on the screen. When not on his medication, what Jerry sees and experiences is a slightly bigger-than-life, bright Technicolor world with beautiful characters that he really wants to be a part of. That meant finding a director who was able to visualize the emotional relationship this man has to the world.
“We set out to find a filmmaker with an auteur vision for the script, to take a psychological thriller with comedic elements and really play with those themes, yet add to the writer’s voice,” says producer Matthew Rhodes. “We always want to find directors with a unique vision, [and her films] the Academy Award nominated Persepolis, and Chicken With Plums, were very innovative,” says producer Roy Lee, on the decision to bring in Satrapi as director.
“Marjane is great visualist, she is as bold and self-assured as an artist” says the film’s executive producer. “She didn’t want to make a more realistic movie or a formulaic one, she really wanted to embrace the shadowy maze of Michael’s writing.” Screen writer Michael R. Perry adds, “with her background in graphic novels, Marjane is coming at this as a visual genius and giving us a very cool way to get into this dark crazy world.”
It was decided that a Mid-West feel had been done before so shooting took place in Berlin, making use of the city’s stark architecture to suggest Jerry’s distorted vision of things. Says producer Matthew Rhodes: “By shooting it in Berlin we were able to find more unique locations that would be a little bit off and just different enough from an American setting to double for the hyper-real, stylized backdrop through which Jerry’s imagines.”
The result is a highly-stylised, highly unique film that challenges the audience’s own perceptions alongside those of Jerry’s, and is by turn funny, clever, sad, thought-provoking and surreal.
The Voices is in UK cinemas from 20th March 2015.