Cube is 25: why Vincenzo Natali's broke film has aged so well

Cube is 25: why Vincenzo Natali's broke film has aged so well

Released in 1999 in cinemas, this twisted thriller can be watched again with pleasure on Netflix or Amazon.

In 1997, the Canadian Vincenzo Natali toured film festivals (Toronto, Sundance, etc.) with his first film, Cube, the story of a handful of people waking up trapped in a giant cube itself made up of hundreds of cubes, some containing traps, others not. How to get out of this nightmare place alive?

Released in France on April 28, 1999 with a reputation as a clever and original thriller, the film enjoyed some success, attracting nearly a million curious people to the cinema despite its ban on children under 12 years old. In First, it was defended by the editorial staff, receiving three stars from Jean-Jacques Bernard, who praised the director's mastery of suspense, who, thanks to his unique concept, managed to keep the spectators in suspense for almost an hour and a half .

“Imagine that a giant French fry cutter descends on a guy locked in a very closed cube, he wrote. You will have an idea, among other things, of the terrors that await you. One of the drivers of this terror is that we do not know why or how these people are there. (…) The overall quality of the film is impeccable. Vincenzo Natali's past as a storyboarder can, of course, be seen in every shot. (He had actually started in Hollywood by drawing storyboards for animated series Beetlejuice Or Babareditor’s note)

In his review, the journalist also specified that the director's success was all the more impressive given that he had shot this project with few resources:

“Last argument which should not count in a review but which remains suffocating. The film would have cost less than 2 million francs (average cost of a first French film: 12 million francs); no known actor (and moreover not all good); a unique setting but used wonderfully… After Cronenberg, Toronto has just flushed out a new tyrant of our imaginations.”

Besides this positive opinion, First published a short interview with Vincenzo Natali by Christophe Carrière, in which the creator of Cube explained how this very small budget forced him to create a unique and easily transformable setting to make the audience believe that the characters were trapped in a gigantic cube.

“A budget of $350,000 only allows for a decor, explained the director. The challenge was to make it multiple. Hence the idea of ​​the labyrinth, each cube being different thanks to varied lighting (red, blue, green, etc.) (Real decor looks like) to one and a half cubes, the half being for tight shots. Overall, the major problem was the walls: too heavy to move! So we only removed one and gave the impression of different viewing angles by moving the actors. A real headache! Basically, three quarters of the shots were shot from the same side! The other problem was the doors: although painted metallic, they were made of plywood. We had to work on the sound a lot in post-production to give the impression that they were heavy.”

The creator of Cube also paid tribute to his co-writers “mathematics”, André Bijelic and Graeme Manson, whose taste for mental arithmetic made it possible to imagine this convoluted plot. If he did not address the sometimes clumsy political message of his film, he recognized that it was not lacking in errors: “reflections against the walls, handles moving… But don't panic: it's only me who can see all that! Next time, I'll make a film with the sky, space, the horizon… in the desert, it will be perfect!”

Right now, Cube is visible on Première Max, Netflix, Prime Video or even OCS, and it remains as effective as ever, 25 years after its release. Despite his limited financial means, Vincenzo Natali succeeded: his universe is as intriguing as possible and his makeup and visual effects are also memorable (notably that of the opening scene, the famous “giant french fry cutter”).

Since this success, the director has filmed other thrillers, including Cypherin 2002, Splice (2009) and In the tall grass, in 2019, but they had less impact on the public than this original work. The latter, however, presented himself as a Cube in the open air, its protagonists finding themselves stuck in a labyrinthine field of tall grass, but the principle of time loop, already seen and quickly repetitive, ended up going in circles.

On the other hand, several films in the vein of Cube have enjoyed great success in recent years, notably the Saw, whose traps are each more twisted than the other. Netflix has also produced a film perfectly in the vein of this model, entitled The platformwhich, like Cubeenjoy its “high concept” to deliver political messages and denounce the failings of our societies. This aspect is more emphasized in this Spanish work than in the 1997 film, where the few remarks of the characters (“- What's out there? – Endless human stupidity”, for example) were secondary to the thriller, mystery and traps to avoid aspects. We are now awaiting news of Platform 2.

The Platform: how to understand the ending of the Netflix film?

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