For his third feature following UK comedies Inbetweeners and Popcorn, Queensland-based independent filmmaker Darren Paul Fisher has created what has been billed as Australia's 'first scientific-philosophical romance'.
OXV: The Manual explores an alternate universe where success is determined by your 'frequency'. High frequency people are born lucky and will inevitably be in the right place at the right time, while low frequency people find that all natural laws conspire against them.
“The idea of frequency is real. All physical objects resonate on some level, but it is debatable whether or not it's linked to luck,” says the writer-director. “I was looking for a way to explain why some people – and we all know them – seem to have a natural 'timing'. The kind of people who have that uncanny ability to always fall on their feet.”
The film concerns the clash of a boy with ultra-low frequency and a girl with super-high frequency, even though the laws of nature should ensure they never meet. Every year they spend exactly one minute together before nature suddenly intervenes. The boy is determined to be with the girl. Eventually he discovers the titular solution, which twists everything known about our ultimate destinies.
“At its heart the film is a Romeo and Juliet story, but where the laws of nature are conspiring to keep this couple apart,” Fisher continues. “I wanted to fill it with themes and ideas but still make it an emotional experience for the audience. Our main approach has been to hardwire all the science and philosophy into the DNA of the romance.”
Fisher first configured the unique philosophical concept behind The Manual over a decade ago. “A film that explores theories of knowledge, destiny and free will was not one that was a natural choice for most commercially-minded producers,” he considers. “Then Charlie Kaufman and Being John Malkovich happened and audiences began to connect with films that dealt with very abstract intellectual ideas.”
Set in a hyperrealist environment, The Manual combines both elements undiscovered in our real world with aspects the film's fictional world has yet to discover. “The idea is to end up with a patchwork of futuristic and anachronistic devices that imply not-quite and not-quite-now,” considers Fisher. “We also wanted the differences to come naturally through the drama and allow the film to retain a sense of mystery and depth. In the transmedia universe we now live in it's actually a benefit to leave some things open.”
A UK-Australian co-production, the film's principal photography took place in England, with all second unit photography and post production stages completed in Australia. “Matching locations 10,000 miles apart was certainly challenging, both in terms of locations and light,” Fisher reflects. “In Queensland we could only shoot either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon, otherwise the sun was too strong. But after such a long process you're happy to have two hour shooting days!”
Fisher hopes the film has a residual affect on audiences: “I'd like it to make you think about your life in a different way,” he says. “I really want audiences to enjoy the puzzle of the film.”
OXV: The Manual will have its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival on 24th July with Darren Paul Fisher in attendance to host the film.