Sweet and Low: Iain Softley

The director of 'K-Pax' chooses his best and worst scenes of all time
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The Independent Culture

Best scene: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

This is very much a "director's piece" – Kubrickcast relative unknowns, and the storytelling is often purely visual. My favourite sequence begins when two astronauts start to feel uneasy about the computer, HAL, that runs the ship and is all-seeing and all-knowing. They go into one of the transportation pods and check to see if HAL can hear them by giving an instruction to rotate the pod, which HAL ignores. They then discuss disabling the computer's higher-intelligence functions. It's a two-shot of the astronauts, with the little red eye of HAL behind them. Thenwe realise that HAL has been lip-reading everything they say. It's a wonderfully chilling moment, delivered with great patience. Kubrick stays back on a wide shot and allows the action to take place, then moves in on a close-up (and, as he often does, without an intermediary medium shot), to emphasise the dramatic moment. There's a close-up of each of the astronaut's lips, and then a close-up of HAL's red eye fills the screen.

Worst scene: Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)

I was completely confused by the opening scene in this film. It's a lengthy sequence showing the delivery of Federal Express packages, with the logo prominently in the foreground most of the time. I was left wondering how it came to be in the film; was it a bizarre piece of product placement? Later there is a scene where the Federal Express plane crashes, and I then wondered if this was a strange criticism of Federal Express. A lot of directors use product placement, but it's normally done in a way that doesn't attract attention. But I do see this scene in the context of film-making; it's such a long process, and one that involves so many different people, that sometimes something can get left in – even when, as with this scene, it's almost like the elephant in the room.

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