Cinophile: Cube

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“No more talking. No more guessing. Don’t even think about nothing that’s not right in front of you. That’s the real challenge. You’ve gotta save yourselves from yourselves.”

The advice from one of Cube‘s characters could not be more apt. In fact, it is loaded with foreshadowing – but with an ironic twist. Eventually both things will come true: characters will become obsessed with what is in front of them, but they will also start to become their own worst enemies. As with all good science fiction, Cube takes the audience to places in the human condition that we rarely enter.

A group of strangers wake up in a large square room. They are all dressed in what might be called prison overalls, but where they are and what they are doing there is a mystery. Eventually they figure out that each person is good at something and those talents may just be the trick at getting themselves out of the cube. But it won’t be easy: every cube has eight doors, leading into more cubic rooms which may contain deadly traps.

Along the way our group of escapees ponder the point. What is the cube? Why are they there? What is the purpose of it all. But these are not the questions Cube concerns itself with. In fact, you might find the answers to those questions unsatisfactory – if they are answered at all. Instead Cube focuses on its characters and how they change under the pressure of trying to escape. These changes start manifesting themselves in different ways and eventually good intentions are replaced by backstabbing and worse – often from a character you initially had chalked up as a good person.

Ultimately Cube asks what would happen to people who are put up against an absurd and seemingly unconquerable situation. Do they buckle under stress? Do they turn on each other? Do they go crazy? And do they make it out alive? It’s not an unfamiliar situation in movies, but rarely done with such genius.

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In order to get funding for Cube, director Vincenzo Natali created a short called Elevated in which a trio of characters are stuck in an elevator and getting more paranoid about each other. It worked and Natali got the finance to create Cube. Still, the movie was made with a modest $350,000.
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Each character in Cube is named after an actual prison and the characters also share a personality or gender trait with that prison. For example, Dr Helen Holloway is named after HM Prison Holloway, a British facility only for women.
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The fictional Cube structure has over 17,000 rooms. In reality the movie only had one room constructed. A second partial room was built for shots from one cube into another. The rooms have different colour schemes, so the production cube’s colour was changed using sliding panels. To keep things lean, scenes weren’t shot sequentially. Instead they were shot according to colour, thus reducing the time taken to change colour schemes.

Best Scene: Very few movies have opening scenes that set the tone quite like Cube does.

Best Quote: Who do you think the establishment is? It’s just guys like me. Their desks are bigger, but their jobs aren’t. They don’t conspire, they buy boats.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: May 26, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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