Fandango was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Divergent with its director Neil Burger! See what they had to say!
Back in May, Fandango had the privilege of visiting the Chicago set of the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent and just last week, it was off to the film’s Los Angeles edit bay to check out what director Neil Burger has accomplished as he creeps closer to locking in his final cut.
For those in need of the basics, Divergent takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the population is divided into five factions based on a citizen’s core values – Abnegation for selflessness, Dauntless for bravery, Amity for peace, Candor for honesty, and Erudite for intelligence. Shailene Woodley’s Beatrice Prior is born into Abnegation, but come the Choosing Ceremony, she’ll get the opportunity to decide for herself; stick with her family, or trust her gut and leave them behind for a new faction.
Fortunately Beatrice doesn’t have to make this life-changing decision all on her own. Prior to the Choosing Ceremony, all 16-year-olds undergo an aptitude test that reveals an individual’s disposition towards a particular faction. Trouble is, Beatrice’s results are “inconclusive,” and that’s where our preview of the film began.
1. THE APTITUDE TEST
As teased in the trailer, we see a brief interaction between Beatrice and her test administrator, Maggie Q’s Tori. Tori hands her a vial of clear liquid and Beatrice drinks as instructed. One second, Beatrice is laying on the table, talking with Tori, but immediately after drinking the serum, she turns over and Tori is gone. A moment later, Beatrice sees herself in Tori’s place. She approaches the mirror image but just before their hands touch, the camera pans away, revealing more mirror images of Beatrice, and then again revealing a seemingly endless number of incarnations. Finally, one speaks up, demanding that Beatrice #1 choose between a knife and slab of raw meat. Beatrice enquires, “Why? What do I do with them?”
Immediately after, she gets her answer.
There’s a vicious, snarling dog right in front of her. The camera stays on Beatrice as she bends down and when we cut back to the dog, it’s turned into an adorable, harmless puppy. Then, just like the book, a child appears across the room, but the child in the film version is donning Abnegation grey giving the impression that she’s meant to be a young Beatrice. The young girl shouts, “Puppy,” and the dog returns to its original form and chases after her. Just in the nick of time, big Beatrice lunges on top of the beast and both sink down into a liquefied floor. Then it’s back to the aptitude test room where a frantic Tori insists that Beatrice tell her family that the serum made her sick. When Beatrice pries for her results, Tori explains, “Your results were inconclusive,” and warns, “It’s extremely rare. They call it Divergent.”
Even though Burger noted that the visual effects are works in progress, the mirror trick looks fantastic. We can’t be inside Beatrice’s head during her aptitude test quite like we are in the book, but between the meaning behind what she’s experiencing and the additional access via Woodley’s performance, the sequence is both enthralling and telling.
Later on in the narrative, there’s another serum that’s pivotal to the latter half of the dauntless initiation process, the fear landscapes. Burger explained, “[Tris’] first half of training is physical, fighting and shooting, all that and the knife throwing. And then the second half of training is psychological, having to face your worst fears.” Burger noted that while those fears are very specific in the book, in his film, they expand them. “They’re very contained in the book and we kind of set them out – some of them – in the real world, or in sort of a bizarre real world. We put her outside the fence in certain places.”
Questions for Veronica
Burger kept Roth close by to insure he had a firm understanding of her book and how the world works, but he also took it one step further by trying to get a grasp on the little things, some of which are so little, they’re never even mentioned in the book. “When she’s writing a certain scene, certain things don’t matter to you, but when you’re looking at it in the movie, it’s like, okay, how is it lit? What’s powering those lights or whatever it is? Do they have money? Do they have pets? Where do they get their food? Not just from the Amity farms, but what’s a market like or isn’t there one? How is it distributed?” When asked if we’d see any of those things in the film, specifically pets, Burger laughed and explained, “You don’t see pets. A little bit. You get a sense of the world a little bit. But the movie’s very much from [Beatrice’s] point of view and so you’re going on her journey rather than wandering in the world.”
If you’ve read Roth’s most recent release, Allegiant, it’s nearly impossible to look at components of Divergent the same way, especially the variety serums. When asked if having read Allegiant colored his take on Divergent, Burger admitted, “Yeah, no, it did and I was talking to Veronica while she was writing it and so I didn’t know everything that was coming, but I knew some of it so that we’d make sure we’d go off on a particular path. But yes, it’s an interesting situation in that Allegiant is so extreme in a way, but I think this movie stands on its own.”
Read the rest HERE