Figuring out how to spend the last hours on Earth before death, and coming to terms with the idea that mortality is something everyone must face in life, puts the value of life high on many people’s priority lists. The concept of struggling to find peace before an inevitable death is at the foreground of the new fantasy sci-fi drama ’4:44 Last Day on Earth,’ which was directed and written by Abel Ferrara and is now playing in select theaters.
’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ follows a seemingly mismatched couple, the successful actor Cisco (played by Willem Dafoe) and the insecure painter Skye (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh), as they’re dealing with their last day on Earth together. Like the rest of the world, the two have come to accept that due to irrevocable circumstances that scientists can’t reverse, including extensive global warming, the world is coming to an end. The entire human race will succumb to death the following morning at 4:44, as Cisco and Skye are still struggling with their relationship and the seemingly broken bonds with those closest to them.
Ferrara took the time to participate in a roundtable interview at New York City’s Regency Hotel. The filmmaker discussed, among other things, why he incorporated modern technology so heavily into the film’s storyline, the casting process and why he thinks the world continuously talks about the end of days.
Written by: Karen Benardello
Question (Q): ’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ is not only about the end of the world, but also how the Internet has captured our society. How did you incorporate that into the film?
Abel Ferrara (AF): I think it’s a modern way of life. With Skype, I don’t know why it’s taken so long to catch up in movies. It’s just how you communicate. Everybody’s got their technology.
My pictures on my phone are amazing. I had a Blackberry and a T-Mobile, and it was a great phone. The past two years, though, my pictures weren’t great. Now I have an awesome camera, but I can’t make a call. It’s AT&T, and I can’t make a phone call. But I can make a beautiful movie on my camera, and can film on the street.
Q: Have we come to the end of the world in communication?
AF: Maybe the beginning of the world. It’s so changed. I’m 60-years-old, and I remember when I needed to wait home to get a phone call, I’m from before the answering machine. The fact is that you can now live your life and be in constant communication. I can call and see anybody I want in the world and connect.
I have an Internet site, AbelFerrara.com that’s translated into Chinese. It’s funny, our films have become more verbal as our audience becomes more international.
Q: Why do you suppose that is?
AF: I don’t know why. I remember Hitchock saying, you could make a movie, he was talking about ‘Psycho,’ and they scream just as loudly in Australia as they do in Tokyo and Paris. They’re screaming to the language of the cinema. They’re not screaming to the language of what’s being said.
Q: You used Skype for the relationships in the film. Why did you use it so heavily for the characters to communicate?
AF: Why weren’t they face-to-face on their last day on Earth? That makes a good point about their relationships, like Cisco’s relationship with his daughter and ex-wife. Skye’s relationship with her mother, they were in two different cities. In situations like that, it’s the people you don’t see, who define your life, and who you call and don’t call, when you have X amount of hours left in your life.
Q: What process did you use to choose the iconic figures, like with the clips of Al Gore, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama?
AF: You said it, because they’re iconic for a reason. The Dalai Lama, there isn’t a word that doesn’t come out of his mouth that doesn’t make me sit up straight.
To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.