Matthew Modine and Studying Human Consciousness

Matthew Modine is interested in making films that explore what makes people tick.
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Question: What types are stories are you interested in telling? Modine: Well, you know, as I said, I hate to keep going back to introducing myself as a human being, but I’m really curious about consciousness, you know? How did we become conscious of our consciousness? I think it’s hugely arrogant of man to think that he’s the only species that has consciousness. I mean, surely a fish, when it’s born, knows to run from fish that are bigger than it, you know, to hide from things that pursue them. That’s a consciousness. If a dog is struck, you know, kicked in the ass and then runs from the person next time he comes in the room, isn’t that awareness, a kind of consciousness to run from those things that are violent, that pursue you. So I’ve always been curious about consciousness, and I think that when I read scripts and I’m curious about films and things, like, to try to understand who we are and how we’ve come to be what we are. I’ve done a lot of films about war, and I’m very fascinated by war because there seems to be a terrible love of it. You know, that whenever push comes to shove, we shove. We don’t often sit down and have discussions about how to solve a problem, to be able to reach across the table and embrace another person and say let’s make this work, you know? Let’s not kill each other’s children. Let’s not pollute the land with atomic warfare and chemical warfare and, you know, nuclear-tipped warheads. We just don’t seem to do that, and that’s really fascinating to me, why we’re so cruel to each other. I think that there is evil in the world. There are people that just hate, and they’re angry and want to destroy things, and, you know, unfortunately we have to use force against those kind of people. But, more often than not, we use violence toward each other. And this may have come from my childhood, where I moved all the time. My father was a drive-in theater manager and we were constantly moving from house to house to house, and when you’re a new student in school, you find yourself fighting people all the time, you know, having to defend yourself. You know, you look across the lunch room and there’s some guy staring at you and, you know, if you look away, that’s… Like, he’d just beat you up, and if you look back at him, and then he says, you know, “What are you looking at? Huh? What are you looking at?” And it turns into two gorillas, and… So I fought my whole childhood. So maybe this curiosity about fighting and consciousness comes from just a childhood of encountering bullies, you know, that I’d have to fight and kick their asses. Question: Are previously untold stories coming to life through advancements in video technology? Modine: The thing that’s really interesting about the directors that I’ve worked with, the really great ones, is that they came from a history of more of the reading stories, reading stories and experiencing life, you know. Going out into the world and seeing how the world impacted them personally, and then using a motion picture camera to tell that story about something that they’ve read or something that they’ve experienced in their life. And what’s happened today is you have people who were growing up, having watched things that those people created with their cameras, filming something. So they grow up watching television, and then they grow up watching films, and then most of them are going to film school and regurgitating the things they’ve learned, you know, the visual story telling. And so, it’s like when you get a mirror and a mirror and you face a mirror to a mirror and you get a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection, that they’re not telling you a story about something that they experienced in their life, of what something smells like, what something tastes like. They’re regurgitating a story that was regurgitated from somebody else and their perspective in life, of what it felt like. You know, what it felt like to be slapped in the face. What it felt like to eat something. What it felt like to fall in love and have the girl tear your heart out and break your heart. That’s because they experienced it, you know? They weren’t telling a story about a visual story that they’d seen in another movie. They were telling you the story about how their life was crushed by this human being, about a war that they had gone through and about, you know, their experience in battle. And we’d just gotten into this thing of a snake swallowing its tail, you know. It’s just a reflection of a reflection of a reflection, and… I mean, I think that if I wanted to be a director today or if I was speaking to students that wanted to be directors today, I would tell them to, you know, certainly learn the technical aspects of film making, but go out in the world, man. Go out and experience what life feels like. Feel like, you know, what it feels like to be cold and hot, and travel around the world and hear other people’s stories. It’s not a mistake, not a coincidence that the most interesting films that are being made in the world today are coming from Latin American countries or from corners of the world that, where people are using the camera to tell a story.