Home  •  About  •  Contact  •  Twitter  •  Google+  •  Facebook  •  Tumblr  •  Youtube  •  RSS Feed
The Divide

The Divide

By Arpad Lukacs • April 18th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Momentum Pictures

Release date: April 20th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 112 minutes

Director: Xavier Gens
Writers: Karl Mueller, Eron Sheean

Cast: Michael Biehn, Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia, Ashton Holmes, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Eklund

Official Movie Site

We’ve probably all wondered how we would behave in a crisis, under extraordinary circumstances.

We get up in the morning, we go to work, we go shopping, we talk to people. In an ideal world we have certain personality traits that remain hidden from us. These might be good or bad, but they are asleep until extraordinary pressure awakens them and puts them to work.

The Divide

French director Xavier Gens explores the darkest regions of human nature in his post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller, The Divide. The apocalyptic event that strikes New York City in a cold opening is undoubtedly modelled after the attacks of September 11th, on a much larger scale.

Using familiar imagery that we have all seen on television; the giant fireball, the staircases full of smoke and paper flying everywhere, we follow a few residents of a building as they manage to make their way to the basement.

This basement is the setting for most of the movie, with a small group of people locked together not knowing what to do for their survival.

The Divide is quite possibly the most pessimistic movie I have ever seen. I’m still somewhat baffled about what it was exactly that this film is trying to tell us. Mickey (Michael Biehn) is the janitor of the building who’s already been living in the basement when disaster struck. Quite early in the film we find out that he lost his wife on 9/11 and he was also a fire-fighter when the attacks took place.

The Divide

Mickey, who is implied to have been one of the heroes on that day, is now living in a basement. As social commentary, he’s an example of how the US government hasn’t taken care of the people that sacrificed for their country. His lonely and frustrated character brings the Zadroga Bill to mind.

Named after James Zadroga, a 9/11 first responder, this bill essentially provided free healthcare for all who were exposed to the toxic material released into the air by the collapsing towers. The bill that has a beneficial effect on Ground Zero workers, mostly fire-fighters suffering from cancer, received Congressional approval only at the end of the year 2010. This was finally possible mostly because of the public outrage generated by political satirist Jon Stewart and perhaps the infamous ranting of Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner on the house floor against a relentless Republican opposition to the bill.

The Divide

Michael Biehn gives a superb performance as the hero who sacrificed for his country only to have his country abandon him.

Nevertheless, Xavier Gens puts Mickey in a very strange sort of context. The group locked in the basement will begin to transform into a pack of animals quite soon. While the character of Mickey feels like heartfelt commentary on the forgotten heroes of 9/11, most of the film is a pessimistic study of human behaviour in crisis. I have to say, it bothered me that I couldn’t identify with a single character in The Divide. Not a single character showed compassion for the weak and was willing to fight for them.

As the film progresses, the subtext on 9/11 gradually dissolves and we are left with a sadistic orgy of rape and torture while cowards stand by and do nothing to stop it.

The Divide

The Divide, however, was a movie I couldn’t stop watching. Although I find it unrealistic in that the group loses any trace of civilised behaviour under the circumstances, the individual performances are so believable that I was completely glued to the screen for two hours. The story is very well structured and there is always something going on. We are always involved in what is happening on the screen. Michael Eklund is particularly impressive as Bobby, who finds that this is finally a good time for him to be open about his transvestism, as well as his sadism and general insanity.

I’m not one to spoil a good movie for people, so I try to stay away from any more of the specifics. Michael Biehn fans will definitely find what they are looking for; he gives a memorable performance as the mean and angry Mickey. If you are interested in post-9/11 films, or into post-apocalyptic cinema, you will find The Divide well worth watching.

Jon Stewart on the Zadroga Bill via Gawker.com
Anthony Weiner on the Zadroga Bill, via Youtube

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

© 2014 STATIC MASS EMPORIUM . All Rights Reserved. Powered by METATEMPUS | creative.timeless.personal.   |   DISCLAIMER, TERMS & CONDITIONS