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Film

Denis Villeneuve's favourite Stanley Kubrick film

Hailing from a village in Quebec, Denis Villeneuve was born in 1967, the eldest of four siblings. After making a series of short films, Villeneuve directed his first feature film in 1998, entitled August 32nd on Earth. Despite being entered into the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 71st Academy Awards, the film was not nominated. However, his second effort Maelstrom (2000) won the Toronto International Film Festival prize for Best Film.

Villeneuve gained a significant amount of recognition for this win, however it was another nine years until his third film, Polytechnique (2009), which explored the school shooting that took place at the University of Montreal in 1989. The film was certainty controversial for its representation of a difficult subject matter, but nonetheless picked up multiple awards, including Best Motion Picture at the Canadian Screen Awards (then known as Genie Awards).

Within a few years, Villeneuve was quickly becoming one of the most prominent names in the industry to look out for. His fourth film Incendies (2010) received critical acclaim, and his following film Prisoners (2013), was nominated for Best Cinematography by the Academy Awards. 2013 also saw Villeneuve release Enemy, which won a $100,00 cash prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Villeneuve’s films, particularly his more recent releases, show a distinctive love for science-fiction. Arrival (2016) explored a linguist’s (Amy Adams) attempt to communicate with extra-terrestrials who arrived on Earth, subsequently winning an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing. However, Villeneuve reached a hallmark in his character with the hugely successful, and visually breath-taking Blade Runner: 2049, released in 2017. Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and Ana de Armas, the film acted as a sequel to Ridley Scott’s original 1982 Blade Runner.

Most recently, Villeneuve directed the sci-fi epic Dune (2021) starring Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides, which received generally positive reviews, although some critics noted issues with pacing, as well as the lack of Middle Eastern and North African actors.

It comes as no surprise that Villeneuve’s science-fiction films are greatly influenced by one of cinema’s greatest minds – Stanley Kubrick. The auteur’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey was undoubtedly a huge inspiration for the visuals of Villeneuve’s Blade Runner: 2049, which employs similar neon lights to create a futuristic feel. Kubrick’s masterpiece is an essential film for both science-fiction lovers, and those indifferent to the genre.

While on the 2018 Cannes Film Festival Jury, Villeneuve stated that one of his all-time favourite films is 2001: A Space Odyssey. He stated that he “first watched it from the staircase when [he] was very young,” giving him what he described as a “cinematic shock.” Eventually, he got to watch the whole film on television, and was struck by the sense of vertigo that he managed to create. It became my favourite film.”

He went on to discuss how “rediscovering it at the festival, in 70mm, was a special moment” for the director. For Villeneuve, the power of Space Odyssey resides in the fact that “Science fiction […] allows you to tackle difficult subjects such as religion, or other aspects of society that are off-limits, with a great deal of freedom and distance.”