Colm McCarthy responds to our question on the occasion of the release of the film The Girl With All the Gifts
Interview by Vincent Delmas, for Oblikon, during the Festival of Gerardmer 2017
Oblikon : I personally thought that the end of The Girl was very pessimistic for humanity…
Colm McCarthy : Oh really ?
O : yes, it was the annihilation of humanity, and I was wondering what you thought of this ?
CM : I think it is a happy ending because humanity continues – even if it does not deserve to be necessarily – through children, but it becomes different and she grows and continues in the form of stories, ideas and education that have been passed by Melanie and Miss Justineau. But I also think that it is an end which is constructed so that the public can take the version he wants. The end that you have is the version that you want, and my version does not matter much. An interesting thing for example is that a girl came to see me in tears after the screening in Toronto and said to me “Thank you” for what the film wanted to say to her, to his personal experience in relation to his Coming Out, compared to the moment when Melanie said “it is no longer yours now” she took it as a metaphor for what she was. I wasn’t thinking that, but I was very glad that she removed it from the film.
The end that you have is the version that you want, and my version does not matter much.
O : what about the time when Melanie said that, I thought that this was not entirely her who said it, but the fungus in her head and all the nature around it ; and, therefore, the environmental message was there. ” we, the planet, do not have to die to save you “. And it will kill all the remaining humans.
CM : absolutely, you can read it like that ! the film says that we ruinons the planet – I do not think that this is the case, we ruinons for us. Dinosaurs have been the asteroid, and it is still there. The film develops the idea that some of us can evolve by agreeing to be a part of the Earth. Maybe Melanie is a metaphor for that.
O : and you, rather optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the planet and of humanity ?
CM : basically I am a person optimistic, and I generally think that people get better over time. You know, I hate it when people say ” oh it would have been better to live 100 years ago “. This is a stupid way of thinking. I had appendicitis when I was 26 years old I think, if I had lived 100 years ago, I would have died. Now I am 43 years old thanks to medicine and science. So I’m optimistic because I think we have made progress. However, I do not think that progress will necessarily be in the right direction. And I’m a little worried at this time from the world with Donald Trump, the Brexit, or Marine Le Pen in France.
I do not think that progress will necessarily be in the right direction.
O : Your movie uses the zombies to get her environmental message. Romero used them to denounce capitalism. Is it that you think that the zombies are useless if they do not convey any message ?
CM : The zombies are a myth originally created for a purpose very negative. I read a very interesting article on this subject : slave French had problems with their slaves that committed suicide because plantation life was really horrible. So they took the head of the religious voodoo and told him to create a myth to make suicide a forbidden act, and they came up with the story that if the people committed suicide, they would return in slaves of the Papadok. This is the first incarnation of the myth of the zombie, and there was already a message behind it to control the crowds
O : speaking of control, in the movie, Melanie is the main character, and is played by a child. It was difficult for you to work with someone so young ?
CM : it is very different than working with someone who has done a play school, who grew up and learned the comedy. Sennia Nanua had not done much before, and besides, there are also constraints of practicality when working with a child. There are a number of hours to work, one must give him lessons every day, and you also need to have I think a very moral and ethical to treat this person differently than an adult. There is a duty of care with a child. But she was very attentive and were learning very well, worked very hard
O : she was very gifted indeed !
CM : Thank you, I’m glad you thought so, I also think that it was good, like the movie ! But it was an experience difficult and emotional for her, and at the end I am very happy that this is a good experience for her.
O : I think what I’m going to ask you now, you must be often asked, but have you played The Last of Us ?
CM : (laughs) You know what’s funny ? I was never really asked that question before I came in France, but since Gérardmer everyone asks me on this, this is funny ! I’ve never played it ! I know the game, and apparently there are big similarities. But we wrote the movie before the game so, so this is not a source of inspiration. I had never been asked that before I came in France, apparently it is a very popular game here !
we wrote the movie before the game so, so this is not a source of inspiration.
O : Yes indeed ! and what is your zombie flick favorite ?
CM : That’s an interesting question … I think I really like Zombie of Romero because it is a very good satire. I loved it when it came out, I don’t know if I’d like to watch it again, but I know that I was much affected when I saw him ado. I also love 28 days later, it is a cult I think, and I also love Killian (Murphy), I had the chance to work with him, he is a great actor and he is brilliant in this film
O : now more compared to you that on the film, you’ve done an episode of Doctor Who and Sherlock, both written by Steven Moffat. You have loved these experiences ?
CM : Yes I loved it ! When I was a child I loved Doctor Who, it was my favorite series, Tom Baker was my doctor preferred. My children were 14 and 16 years old, and when I realized the episode, they were big fans. I have been able to take him, they were able to press the button of the TARDIS, I would have loved to do kid ! And compared to Steven Moffat, I think it is a genius for writing stories, in Sherlock also. It was a real chance to work with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, they are big stars now !
O : how was it working with them ? Especially in the episode that you have made (302) Benedict Cumberbatch is a monologue, it’s very impressive !
CM : Yes, all the speech of the wedding has been really difficult to do, and you know, Sherlock is a funny thing because it’s like a movie of 90 min, but who goes on television with expectations very large. Paul McGuigan, who has the first episode, has developed the aesthetic with the sms, the information and all that kind of stuff which are become a part of Sherlock, and my episode has this sequence of which you speak, but also a lot of flashback, or a party, we see Sherlock drunk – this is the first time. This is probably the episode the funniest of the series ! Which is funny, because I’m not really for the comedy as a director. But it was really cool to turn ! Benedict was really good for his speech, and it was hard at all levels !
Sherlock is a funny thing because it’s like a movie of 90 min, but who goes on television with expectations very large.
O : And you would like to make another Sherlock or another series ?
CM : absolutely, Yes ! I just made the pilot of a new series, Krypton by David S Goyer, about the planet Krypton, 200 years before the story of Superman. It is for Syfy, and I would be executive producer on the series.
O : That is awesome!!! and to finish with, I have a final question, the child who is killed by the doctor is called Kenny, and I could not stop myself thinking about South Park. Is it a reference ?
CM : You know what ? (laughter) It was not, but as soon as I read it I immediately thought “Oh my god, they killed Kenny” ! Nobody had told me about before, I’m glad that you did because I also thought that!!
Find the movie review The Girl With All the Gifts on Oblikon