Life, death, clones: it’s the film Swan Song with Mahershala Ali

Available from December 17 on Apple TV +, Swan Song is a science fiction film starring Mahershala Ali in the lead role, that of a dying man who wants to be cloned.

What is it about ?

In the near future. How far is a man willing to make sacrifices to make life more pleasant for the people he loves?

Swan Song, a film written and directed by Benjamin Cleary with Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, Awkwafina… Available on Apple TV +

Cheat death

What would you do if you knew you had an incurable disease? This is the question asked by Cameron, played by Mahershala Ali in Swan Song, a father who does not want to overwhelm his wife and son with his death. This film is based on my personal experience. That of having lost loved ones when I was only 20 years old“confides Benjamin Cleary to AlloCiné.

I then realized the immense distress and sadness that these losses cause all around you. Especially since some have not even been able to say goodbye to those they have lost. It also made me aware of my mortality and I wondered what would happen if I were to die, especially with my family. This film is therefore both ultra personal but it also speaks of a plausible future where technology allows cloning. For me, this film is more of a drama about the ‘loss’ of the other than a sci-fi thriller.

Life, death, clones: it's the film swan song with mahershala ali
Apple TV +

Director Benjamin Cleary, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali on the set of Swan Song

Cameron is then confronted with a moral dilemma when taking this singular step. “Will he succumb to the temptation to be cloned to keep his family? It really is a study of love. What drives us the love we have for our loved ones, beyond any ego, and in the service of our family“Mahershala Ali explains.

One for two

A real challenge for Mahershala Ali who plays the two characters on the screen: Cameron, who is dying, and Jack, his clone. “It was quite a challenge to play two characters who are similar but at the same time have to exhibit notable differences. Little by little I managed, I think, to give birth to two unique interpretations of the same character.“explains the actor.

But also for Benjamin Cleary, the director! “Technically, the biggest challenge was filming the scenes between Cameron and Jack. It takes senseless meticulous preparation. But the result is breathtaking. I tried to use mainly the technique of ‘split screen’ and not that of ‘motion control’ to give Mahershala greater latitude in the creation of these two characters and their execution.

Life, death, clones: it's the film swan song with mahershala ali
Apple TV +

Swan Song is then based much more on emotion than on the technological prowess of cloning. “In fact this movie made me cry so much in the evening when I came home“says Naomie Harris.”For me, it was an ultra emotional journey. Especially since once I was in Poppy’s shoes I never left her during the whole shoot. Everything she goes through has been a real emotional journey, even spiritual.

Indeed very emotional, Swan Song asks ethical and philosophical questions that will perhaps be debated in the public place in the coming years. “I would like this movie to make you think about what you would do in my protagonist’s situation. Would you be cloned? It is the dilemma between letting death take its course or attempting to take control of life… It is not a simple answer, just like life…“concludes Benjamin Cleary.

Interview conducted by Emmanuel Itier in Los Angeles on December 7, 2021

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