When Duncan Jones fans finish streaming “Mute” on Netflix, they’ll notice the film is dedicated to the director’s late father, David Bowie. The dedication is hardly a surprise given that “Mute” is the first film Jones made from the start after losing his father (“Warcraft” was released the same year Bowie died but was started years before his passing), but it’s actually more fitting than anyone might realize. The way Jones tells it, Bowie inspired “Mute” on both a thematic and storytelling level.
“Mute” is set in futuristic Berlin, a city Jones fell in love with when he visited as a child in the mid-1970s during the time Bowie lived there and recorded what is known as the Berlin Trilogy: “Low,” “Heroes,” and “Lodger.” Jones told The Times that while working on the screenplay for years he realized the setting “needed to be a city that was a melting pot, or a place where cultures collide.” Berlin was a no-brainer.
“I’ve had a chance to experience that in a fairly unique way, having been here in the 1970s and a couple of other times over the decades,” Jones said. “And there have been a lot of things that have come to a head this year which mirror a lot of the subject matter that ‘Mute’ is essentially about. That is, immigrant cultures in a foreign city, either wanting to stay or come into the city, or wanting to leave. And Berlin is the perfect metaphor for a lot of that.”
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Bowie also inspired some of the story subtext in “Mute.” “An awful lot of the story revolves around the nature of parenthood,” Jones said. “What makes a good parent?”
“There was another thing that Dad said about putting yourself a little bit deeper in the water than where you can reach [the bottom with] your toes” Jones continued. “That’s what I did with ‘Mute.’ I made a film which was a little bit uncomfortable and unexpected, and darker than people might be expecting. I was nervous making it. But nervous in a good way.”
“Mute” is also dedicated to Jones’ late nanny, Marion Skene, who took care of him a lot while his father was touring the world with his music. “Mute” debuts on Netflix February 23.