Ryan Phillippe wears a supernatural-looking mask in Franklyn, a British film coming out next year. He plays the only atheist in a city full of religious fanatics. Writer/director Gerald McMorrow spilled the beans yesterday about the film's weird set-up.
Philippe plays a detective named Jonathan Preest who lives in a dystopian alternate world called Meanwhile City, where religion is the main form of social control. The clever twist? The evil overlords don't care what religion you believe in, as long as they can use your beliefs to tame you.
The bad news is, the Meanwhile City segments are only a quarter of the movie. The other three quarters deal with characters in the "real" world, and the film cuts back and forth between their stories. All four narrative lines come together in the end, in some fashion that McMorrow can't reveal without spoiling the ending. It sounds very The Fountain, but the Meanwhile City stuff sounds very Brazil. Says McMorrow:
It's this place which is sort-of run by a shadowy, religious uber-power called The Ministry who has decided, over the centuries, that as long as they can get their population to believe in something - anything - they can control them. People have faiths and religions based on strange things like The Seventh Day Manicurists and Washing Machine Street Preachers. Their doctrines and dogmas are all based on things like washing machine instructions.
I like the idea that the Ministry can use religion to rule, without having to prescribe a particular faith. We're always being told that religious pluralism will save us from theocracy. But a diversity of beliefs doesn't negate their usefulness as a tool of control. The bizarro religious groups also sound very promising.
So really the only question is can McMorrow channel good Terry Gilliam, and avoid falling into Brothers Grimm-style campiness? Oh, and is device of intersecting storylines as annoying and contrived as it sounds, or can McMorrow make it work somehow?
RT Visits The Set of Franklyn [Rotten Tomatoes]