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In His Own Words: David Mackenzie Shares a Scene from ‘Perfect Sense’

In His Own Words: David Mackenzie Shares a Scene from 'Perfect Sense'

Below director David Mackenzie (“Young Adam”) shares a scene from his high-concept love story “Perfect Sense,” starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green as two lovers who meet as an epidemic threatens to change life on earth as we know it. It’s currently playing in select cinemas and is available on VOD.


“Perfect Sense” is a film about love and catastrophe which I hope is a powerfully romantic and emotional take on the apocalyptic sub-genre.  Its aim is to be a minimalist concept movie – where seismic events occur in simple ways that ask the audience to use their imagination.

I wanted it to work as a microcosmic examination of the things that make us human – our senses of course, but also our innate capacity for love and hope – and this needed an intimate approach that was more poetic than straight genre.  

I have to admit I also wanted to rebel against the dominance of big studio event cinema – which seems to get more stupid the louder and bigger it becomes – but that is another discussion.  

Trying to make an upbeat and romantic story about the end of humanity has its challenges!  But we were mad enough to try and this film what we got.


This sequence is where the second wave of the disease starts to sweep through the population.  In many ways it’s the closest the film comes to a pure genre moment.  All the way through the film I was really trying to hold it back, not to be bombastic, not to try too hard.

But this scene needed to explode somehow – to take the gravity and the extremity of the concept into the next level.  It is a point in the film where all chance of things returning to normal disappears.  It had to be something truly crazed – an insane feeding frenzy.

Food scenes in movies are traditionally nightmares to shoot – you just can’t fake eating and you usually have to repeat it a lot of times to get the angles you need.  It’s actually quite a lot to ask of actors and there’s really nowhere to hide.

This sequence involved every person experiencing an immediate, total sense of ravenousness and literally stuffing their faces with anything and everything that’s in front of them – whole fish, flowers, slops and even dishwashing liquid.  It had to be greedy and out of control with a total loss of dignity.  I tried very hard to make sure we didn’t go for too many takes!  

Everyone was great and really threw themselves into it.  I love Ewan McGregor and the spoonfuls of mustard (a bit of self reference to the scene involving custard in the earlier film we made together, “Young Adam”); Ewan Bremner and the gallon of olive oil he guzzles; Eva Green and the mad concoction of toothpaste, lipstick and flowers – she is in an empty car park so her food choices are limited. Special mention has to go to the guys in the fishmarket – ‘it’s basically sashimi’ was what I had to keep saying to them, but their look of self disgust at the end was very close to genuine!

The rest of the film is not at all like this – in fact is very consciously the opposite of it; filled with tenderness, sensitivity and complexity.  That’s why you won’t see this scene in a trailer or a clip and that’s why I wanted to take the opportunity of showing it here.  
It is an example of (and metaphor for) the bursting of the dam of human self-control and the wave of mayhem that follows.  This film strongly proposes that love and hope will not only survive but flourish in the breakdown of our society and its aftermath.  But this needs to set itself in the context of our human potential for violence and selfishness, which many would regard as most likely to prevail when the storm comes.

“Perfect Sense” is an extremely serious film and I am an extremely serious film-maker who is trying to explore the medium in original and interesting ways.  I chose to show this scene in order to show different facets of it broaden the perception of the film.

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