ICARUS in Love is in fact a love story, albeit a weird one. Kind of like Romeo and Juliet is a love story, except this one is set in the future, but not too far, really when you get down to it, the time and place are not so, so different from our own. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, our lovers are not cursed by a love that ventures unreasonably across warring families lines, but by love itself, deep and instinctive, unreasonable, uncompromising, uncontrollable and uncivil. All the same, their love, like Romeo and Juliet’s, threatens the established order and that is where and why things get sticky.
Kiki Gkdingquman works in a office, pays her taxes and rent on time and obeys most of society’s rules except one: sometimes she does random, unpredictable, impulsive shit. In this particular future, where corporations have largely replaced governments and everything from the wallpaper patterns to the view outside your window can be purchased and exchanged, buying off the menu is kind of frowned upon; in fact it is treated as a act of social defiance. In this society, simply acting impulsively (really the granddaddy of all addictive behavior) has outpaced alcoholism, gambling, sex and drugs, becoming the most demonized of aberrant behaviors. Impulsives find themselves chastised, counseled, support grouped, and finally, in cases of chronic relapse institutionalized.
When we begin our story Kiki, 30 years old and single, stands on the precipice. She has been summoned by the head of her company’s personnel department to discuss the recent evolution in a disturbing pattern of workplace behavior. Her actions have been reported, they have begun to disrupt the easy order of the office and upset her co-workers. Left alone for a moment in the large window lined office of the head of personnel, Kiki finds herself entranced by the beautiful redwood forest right outside the window and the strange squeaking sound coming from it. Impulsively she throws a chair through the window. Suddenly the redwood forest collapses in a thousand splinters of broken glass revealing a terrified window washer on a rig outside the window that does not in fact look out at anything more than a dull featureless airshaft. Again Kiki acts impulsively and leaps out the window onto the window washer’s rig. Scaring the poor man away, she commandeers his rig and rides up and down until corporate security forces are marshaled. She narrowly and temporarily escapes, running singing through the streets until she is apprehended while leaping into a city fountain. Clearly Kiki has broken the final straw.
Welcome to I.C.A.R.U.S. 1, or Impulse Correction And Response Urge Suppression, Inpatient Center. Following her episode Kiki is arrested charged and sentenced to an undetermined period of incarceration. The place looks very much like either a white-collar prison or liberal arts college. We see the freaks of this society run amuck. The clinic’s director, renowned behavioral therapist Dr. Xavier Bashir, immediately plunges Kiki into an intense treatment regimen, subjecting her to an arsenal of social role playing and conditioning exercises designed to curb impulse action. Soon after being admitted Kiki literally runs into Anton Marbebk, a 42 year old advertising executive nearing the completion of his time at ICARUS. The two fall instantly, recklessly and impulsively in love with each other. Drawn together through some magnetic force they cannot control, Anton tries to reason with Kiki, and finally helps her to see their feelings for one and other for what they are: transgressive, forbidden and anathema to everything they are working towards. Kiki relents, accepting the ICARUS program, she learns over time to subdue her emotions for Anton until it seems they are gone altogether. They are the cured. Sadly ICARUS cannot fix everyone. Before graduating, Anton witnesses a strange procedure being conducted on his one true friend inside, a hapless bungler named Babar who, despite all the clinics efforts, has proved unable to curb his impulses. Although Anton feels compelled to help his friend, his impulse control training restrains him.
Released back into the world, Anton returns to his old job to he finds himself unable to shake thoughts of Kiki. His own part in subduing their love haunts him. He tries to throw himself into his work, but finds it hollow, dishonest and exploitive. He is tasked with projects aimed at preparing young children for a life of corporate control and given a glimpse of the company’s new device. This will take projections beyond inanimate objects like windows and buildings, to actual people. This device will allow people to actually buy alternate projections of how people see them. If they want to be their favorite film star, they don’t need to go to the gym or imitate their wardrobe, they can actually project their appearance to the outside world. The thought of this final frontier in the land of identity sublimation and commercialization is too much for Anton.
Then one day a brick shatters his world, actually just his window, but the moment has larger consequences. Anton rushes out to see the tattered remains of a small street mob disappearing down an alley before security forces descend. He finds an eerie parallel in these terrorists’ random acts of vandalism and his own struggle with impulse control. For the first time, he can see clearly the sacrifices he has made for the empty life he now inhabits. He resolves to try in some small way to challenge his conditioning. He begins by accepting an invitation from Dr. Bashir to speak at ICARUS as an example of the center’s work; truthfully he feels anything but an ICARUS success story since he only wants to use the opportunity to get close to Kiki.
Kiki on the other hand, has in fact become an ICARUS success story. She has become like everyone around her, productive and under control. As an adjunct to her new mindset, she has developed a standardized, safe relationship with “Phil” a former ICARUS patient, ex-male model and current spokesmen/salesperson for a muffin company. It is a comfortable association devoid of passion or romance, something the center actively promotes. During Anton’s visit he privately reveals his feelings for her. Kiki becomes upset and confused, Anton has become someone who jeopardizes her path towards rehabilitation.
Wandering the street at night, Anton examines closely the piece of brick that was thrown his office window from his pocket. On it he finds an inscription etched on its surface, “Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains”. Behind him, an elderly stranger named Gaspar, notices the fragment and invites Anton to his home. Gaspar explains that he used to be a patient at ICARUS patient but has traded that to be part of a revolutionary group determined to wake their world from the slumber of corporate compliance. Through their conversation, Anton realizes that his impulses and feeling are, and were, real and are validated by a large group of others who feel and act like he does. He finds strength in his disease and begins to understand that his love for Kiki is not only a personal desire, but also an act of social responsibility. He decides then and there to save Kiki before it’s too late. He goes to her. Sadly she tells him that she and Phil are engaged to be married.
Anton tricks Kiki into meeting him outside of the center. She warily follows him into an ancient abandoned library. He convinces her that their feelings are valid and that they are not insane or criminals. They share a forbidden night together, consummating their relationship. In the morning, they are caught. Anton tells the authorities that Kiki was taken against her will. They believe him and arrest for kidnapping. He finds himself once again back at ICARUS. Kiki, reluctant but resigned, returns to Phil and begins the inexorable march towards marriage and a life of compromise and compliance.
Desperate, Anton decides to steal the prototype for the device his company is about to launch and escape from ICARUS. He succeeds in his subterfuge and replaces Phil at the altar and marries Kiki. As they drive off together he reveals himself to her and they escape at the very moment Gaspar initiates an unprecedented act of sabotage. He succeeds in shutting off the projections that veil the world as it is. A blinding white light explodes from his body and then truth. As the light begins to fade we see the projections sizzle and pop off revealing the shabby artifice of the city. Anton and Kiki disappear together into an uncertain future.
The story ends with Anton smiling. He looks over, but instead of seeing Kiki, he sees his friend Babar strapped to a draconian dentist chair like apparatus, electrodes blossom out of his head like an electronic medusa. Anton looks down and sees himself similarly restrained. In a moment of horror, we realize that the whole escape and wedding subterfuge was nothing more than an impulsive dream, allowed to run its course in controlled confinement; the last and final stop on the train of relapses. When they can’t be fixed, they are locked away, never to see the light of day, condemned to live only in their minds. Suddenly there is a flash of blinding white light from somewhere outside. The lamps and florescent bulbs in the cell flicker and go black.
DIRECTORS’ STATEMENT: ICARUS in Love
ICARUS in Love is too many things. Love story. Comedy. Social Satire. Science Fiction Dystopia. Psychological Thriller. And lastly, a question about how and why we act. It’s a bucket of stuff. It’s beyond unreasonable, it’s schizophrenic. You’d think one genre would be enough? I mean put aside the fact that life, sadly or gladly, is all over the place, aren’t films supposed to be a refuge or escape from that kind of chaos? Or can a film that aims at so much dissonance actually strike a very simple tone, honesty?
To tell a story ultimately about honesty, people living in and out of it, characters trying and failing to make connections with themselves and society, everything from casting to production design to photography to editing needs to be simple, unadorned and direct. That begins and ends in the eyes of the actors. Performances need to be grounded and subtle and simple. So much of this story takes place in the space between wanting to do something and either not doing it or doing it, that moment of decision is more important than the action itself. Nothing gimmicky or insincere can distract from this.
Visually, from photography to production design, the vision of the future in ICARUS should never overshadow the character relationships. We want to get away from the stillness of many science fiction films and shoot in a loose, but unobtrusive and personal handheld style. On the page the world of the script may seem complicated, but it is ultimately familiar. This is not Blade Runner, but a world very much like ours with some upgrades. Creating this world will involve less special effects and more juxtapositions. Today facsimiles, superficial projections or pastiches from some other time or place explode across America – fast food restaurants made to look like medieval dinning halls, food courts alluding to a string of cafes somewhere in a quaint version of Europe that doesn’t even exist any more, everything targeting a sweet spot at the convergence of nostalgia and comfort. That is the world of ICARUS. Most of the time we see a world we almost know. The downtown seems to have more trees, everyone has a view from their window. All this feels real except through the cracks. In these small moments we can see this manufactured serenity for what it is – a dead hide hung on a mechanical skeleton.
ICARUS is a challenging project, but its ambition comes less from the technical challenges, than from the need to maintain in the performances and style a truly grounded and real emotional space. There are numerous examples of films that have succeeded in this from Alphaville to A Clockwork Orange to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Moon– all films which although containing elements of science fiction do not allow themselves to become slavishly bound to the genre. The subject in each one is the study of human nature and what it actually means. Sometimes by taking the world and turning it slightly we can see our behavior for what it really is, that is our deepest hope with ICARUS.
For a full PDF of the script, CLICK HERE.