Movie booksScifi

Cube: Inside The Making Of A Cult Classic by A.S. Berman (book review).

Before reading this book, if you haven’t seen the 1997 film ‘Cube’ in a while, pick up a copy and watch first. I pulled the boxset of the trilogy, mostly because I hadn’t seen the other two films, so expect a review of it when I complete watching it. Even without re-watching it, I remembered some of the material but it makes this book, ‘The Cube: Inside The Making Of A Cult Classic’ by A.S. Berman even more rewarding.

It’s hard to believe that back in 1997 that the Canadian film industry was based mostly around documentaries than making films and even the likes of David Cronenberg had to struggle to make his films there. Co-director/co-writers Vincenzo Natali and Andre Bijelic took 7 years to get ‘Cube’ before the cameras, having worked from a young age in creating their own films, often roping in David Hewlett as their main actor.

When you see the finished product and realise how cheap a budget ‘Cube’ was made on, $750,000 (Canadian not American dollars I think) the money is on the screen and shows how effective a limited set can be made to work. The studio lights and plastic cube also made it uncomfortable for the cast which also comes out in their performance. It was interesting seeing them working out the names for their characters and realising how difficult it is for some people when someone like me instinctively feels I’ve chosen the right names.

With such a small set and a 20 day shooting schedule, there was a lot of pressure on everyone, not to mention a small number of staff who weren’t that enthusiastic but because they were given free from a training school for experience and had to be tolerated. In many respects, this book can also be read as a means to learn about the problems of a small film production. When you see the final film of any production you never see all that goes on behind the scenes so these kinds of books are important. You really do have to be enthusiastic and dedicated to getting the film completed.

‘Cube’ didn’t really get on the map until it was shown in France’s film festivals, although there is no mention if they had a language translation. Certainly, it became a video sensation which is largely how I came across it in the UK. Then again, we Brits like niche SF films. Indeed, after the film, Natali points out the difficulty he had in directing more work and I hadn’t realised he also directed ‘Splice’ (2010). As actor David Hewlett also points out with his own career, a lot of the choices made are usually to pay the mortgage.

At the back of the book there are pages from the script and detailed storyboards. For those who are intending to make film a career, storyboards are what convinces backers that you know what you’re about so get some practice in. Having read how ‘Cube’ evolved, I still think any director who’s involved in the plotting really should get some short stories under their belt in their particular genre to understand the writing process experience.

Towards the end of the book, I did wonder at the absence of information about actors Nicole deBoer and Maurice Dean Wint involvement, apart from reference from Nicky Guadagni about him getting her a ‘Holloway’ prison mug from the UK. In the acknowledgements, Berman explains he’d been unable to either get past their agents or contact them. Even so, to have nothing at all about them at all does reduce the book’s status which seems a shame. One can only hope that they either pick up the book or spot a review such as this and get in contact with BearManor and add a contribution for a revised update.

Nevertheless, from a production point of view, this book is a marvellous insight into how ‘Cube’ was made and was certainly unique when it was first released and still holds that distinction

GF Willmetts

April 2018

(pub: BearManor Media. 349 page illustrated enlarged square paperback. Price: $27.00 (US), £19.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-62933-291-8)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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