About The Film
"We all want to know what happens when we die, but some things are clearly best
left unknown," says Laurence Mark, producer of the new film Flatliners. In the
film, five medical students become obsessed with these questions - and pay no
heed to the producer's warning.
"Flatliners is a journey into the unknown - the last unknown, you could say,"
says director Niels Arden Oplev, best known for his work as the director of the
Swedish film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the pilot of the
acclaimed series "Mr. Robot." "It's an outrageous subject, to travel beyond
death and have your friends try to bring you back, to explore what's on the
Flatliners begins as one medical student - who has her own, carefully guarded
motivations - convinces four of her colleagues to embark with her on a dangerous
experiment: she wants to stop her heart and experience death for a short period
of time, monitoring her brain activity to see if they can find any proof of the
afterlife; then, she needs her colleagues to bring her back to life.
What could convince anyone to try something so dangerous? What else but the
promise of groundbreaking - and fame-making - results. "Imagine if they found
the proof they were looking for: it would be the greatest medical discovery of
the century," says Oplev. "Courtney, played by Ellen Page, appeals to the
pressure the other students feel in a cutthroat environment. As one character
says: this is not a medical school that is educating country doctors - they are
there to push the dial on human knowledge."
What the medical students find is something they did not expect: having
flatlined and faced death, they not only experience what the afterlife might be
like - they come back better. "By traveling to the kingdom of death, they come
back with enhanced abilities," says Oplev. "They're trying to shortcut
themselves to greatness. But there's a bill to be paid for doing that."
And that bill is steep: as they face their deaths and resurrections, the
characters are all forced to confront the regretful actions of their pasts. "All
of us, at some point in our lives, have done something we're either ashamed of
or that we regret," says producer Michael Douglas. As the students in the film
face death, he says, it becomes a chance for them to face up to these sins. "As
they are haunted by their mistakes, they discover that it's never too late to
try to remedy the past," he continues.
"They're confronted with elements from earlier in their lives that they're not
proud of," adds Oplev. "In essence, they come to a new realization of who they
The original Flatliners hit the big screen in 1990. An extremely stylized and
unsettling film, it immediately struck a nerve with audiences. Now, more than 25
years later, Flatliners returns to the screen in a contemporary reimagining.
Douglas, a producer of the original film, teamed with producers Laurence Mark
and Peter Safran to bring the retelling to the screen.
To direct the new adaptation, the producers tapped Oplev. "Niels brings a
fantastic European author sensibility to a commercial American thriller," says
Safran. "What was important to all of us, and especially to Niels, was that the
characters work: he ensured that everything that happens to the characters is
rooted in reality, and that their past mistakes and the actions they take to
redeem themselves are believable."
It was also important to Oplev to create a film that stood on its own and spoke
to contemporary audiences.
"Of course, it's a thrilling entertainment, but the subject also has built-in
depth to it. We could create a film that has all the good tension and
entertainment of a thriller, but also depth, credibility and realism. That's why
I was drawn to this project," says Oplev.
Mark says it made sense to take a more realistic approach. "Science and
technology have changed dramatically over the last quarter century," says Mark.
"We approached this movie in a way that was much more grounded and rooted in
One way that Oplev would ground the thriller was with a commitment to realism. "Flatliners
has supernatural elements with fun and scary stuff, but within that, I wanted it
to be totally believable," says Oplev. "When they flatline for the first time, I
wanted you to 100% believe that it was really happening."
Even more importantly, Oplev would ground the film with the strong characters,
says Safran. "We wanted to strongly establish the characters early on so that
when they experience the supernatural phenomena that occur after they have
flatlined, you're seeing it all through their eyes: you know what they're going
through, you know what they've experienced in life, and now you fear for them."
Ben Ripley, who previously penned the box-office success Source Code, was
brought on board to write the script, from a story by Peter Filardi. Says
Ripley, "I was in college when the original film came out and I remember
thinking it had a very smart premise, so I was intrigued by the idea of a
remake. Because the elements were all there - the universal appeal of inquiring
into the afterlife, the themes of atonement and redemption - I had the luxury of
being able to import a structure that was totally solid. What I did do was
update the science, the technology and make the cast much more diverse and
competitive, keeping in line with medical schools today."
Ripley consulted extensively with medical specialists throughout the writing
process. "I became interested in the idea of neurology as the driver for the
characters' interest in flatlining," he explains. "We still don't really know
much about how the brain works; it's a machine that's way too complex for us to
understand. I began to wonder: what if there's a region of the brain that's
responsible for producing a near-death experience, just like there are regions
that cause us to feel anger or to taste a lemon?"
On numerous occasions throughout the writing process, Ripley was able to
accompany a neurologist friend at his work, sitting in on morning presentation
meetings and interviewing medical students on neurology rotations. "A lot of
that made it into the script," says Ripley. "We all wanted to keep things as
believable as possible, so many of the medical situations you see in the movie
are in fact written and executed with a high degree of realism."
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