I came across this very old post that I'd forgotten about that precedes anything I've written on the forums. It's from a discussion thread on aol, written from Drew Neumann's computer, before I even had internet.
This is from 1995, as I was still working on the show. It's on a Korean discussion board that might not be easily accessed. I'm posting it here for the record.
FROM PETER CHUNG
I've just returned from five months in Korea and Japan overseeing the animation production and am sitting in front of Drew Neumann's computer while Drew is downstairs working overtime on the music score for episode 9, due to air in ten days. I've just spent the last five hours reading every message posted at this site and I'm amazed/ baff led/ worried by the volume and intensity of the responses generated by the show (both the shorts and the new half hour episodes).
First off, I have to put in a word on behalf of MTV; they deserve a lot of credit for having the nerve and good taste to support innovative animation, from Liquid T.V., to the Brothers Grunt (I like the show), to the Maxx, to Aeon Flux. In spite of the occasional disagreement over BS&P (Broadcast Standards and Practices), they've really left me alone to create the kind of show that I'm interested in making. The decision to reduce the quantity of violence in Aeon Flux, the series, as compared to the LTV shorts was the result of a shift in my personal outlook and a desire to place the emphasis on stories that are character-driven as opposed to action-driven. Also there was no way to top the violence quotient that was achieved in the shorts, so it seemed like a thematic dead-end to keep treading the same bloody ground. The use of s hock tactics in the shorts was a calculated move on my part to stand out from the pack of densely spaced material in the Liquid T.V. format. Standing on its own, Aeon Flux has the luxury to be subtler, more complex, more psychological rather than physical. In any case, I 'm not interested in making a name for myself as the creator of "the most violent show on television"; I've always been more interested in pursuing other attributes which are equally applicable to Aeon (I hope), suc h as thought provoking; aesthetically daring; non-moralistic.
As for the addition of dialogue, it was unavoidable and necessary; I don't believe that the stories we've written could have been told in pantomime, just as I believe that the absence of dialogue for half an hour would ultmately draw attention to itself ("why isn't anyone saying anything?") and come off as gimmicky, not to mention frustrating from a director's point of view. The presence of dialogue by no means reduc es the need for the viewer to pay close attention to what is happening visually, nor does it mean that what is being said is to be taken at face value. On the contrary, the characters' words are yet another layer of signs to be interpreted by the viewer.
Which brings me around to discussing Episode 1, "Utopia and Deuteronopia". This is the "contractcual obligation" episode, and was my response to MTV's request to provide some backstory to the world of Aeon Flux, as well as to d eliver a premiere episode that would not offend the critics, nor set a bad example to viewers who would be tuning in for the first time. I was eager to accept the challenge of making a non-violent Aeon episode (until then, a contradiction in terms) which would nonetheless preserve the mystery and atmosphere of the original shorts. It would also be the first time the characters would be seen talking, therefore I wanted to set up the context for the way language is used, particularly by Aeon. When Aeon starts talking while addressing the surveillance camera, she knows she's being observed; her announcement that she is on a mission to assassinate Trevor is meant to disguise her true intentions, which, in the end, turn out to be to manipulate Gildemere into taking the fall for Trevor's secret crimes, while actually securing Trevor's position of power and publically humiliating him. I would have thought that subsequent exchanges in the episode would have tipped off v iewers that she WASN'T TELLING THE TRUTH here-- it's strange how people who have seen a character kill and steal somehow don't seem prepared to accept that she would lie once in a while.
Some critics in the press were quick to conclude that the narrative was incoherent due to the contradiction between Aeon's words (statement of hostility toward Trevor) and her actions (kissing, and ultimately helping him). In my observations of how people behave,it's always actions, not words, wh ich reveal what someone thinks and feels. The same applies to Trevor's opening speech "I have nothing to hide, etc."-- he obviously has very much he wants to hide. I can't help it if people are used to seeing T.V. shows in which characters simply announce their thoughts to the viewer.
The fundamental difference between film and literature as narrative mediums is that in film, the physical is explicit while the inner dimension of thought andfeeling is implied; in books, the phys ical is left to the imagination while thoughts and feelings can be described in accurate, unambiguous terms (ex.: "he looked at her nervously, afraid that she might not love him anymore"). This is why I have a problem with people who insist that reading requires participation while viewing film (or T.V.) is a passive experience. While this may be true in most commercial films, in the best use of cinema, viewer involvement is crucial to enjoying the story. The physical elements are t he least important, and therefore should be the least ambiguous; the psychological content, on the other hand, can only ever be a matter of interpretation-- the author has no moral authority to define that for the reader/ viewer. My visual style is the antithesis of the moody, shadowy approach; I prefer the lights-on, clear-line descriptive approach used by Moebius, Kubrick, Antonioni. The content speaks for itself without the imposed dramatic effects of heavy atmosphere.
In sp ite of the silly disclaimer that appears at the beginning of each Aeon episode, these stories are not about good and evil (who wrote that?) Aeon is not the heroine; Trevor is not the villain. Trevor's projects are always motivated by a desire to help society; they may at times be misguided, but they are well-intentioned. It's the simplest thing in dramatic writing to make a character evil-- it's also very boring. I'm sorry that viewers don't like Trevor; perhaps it's because he f ails to fulfill their preconception of a strong villain. Well, adjust your preconception, because he was never intended as a villain. I can't write stories about good vs. evil because it wouldn't be true to my life experience to categorize characters that way. I find little suspense in films that pit a sympathetic character against an unsympathetic one; far more interesting are conflicts between parties who have equal claims toour feelings.
Anyway, to return to episode 1, I hav e to say that I feel that the show has many problems, most of which I attribute to the fact that it underwent a difficult production process and that it was the testing ground for the crew involved (the characters are consistently "off-model", for example).
The 2nd episode "Isthmus Crypticus", directed by Howard Baker, was animated in Korea by GANA Animation; the principal animators had worked on the Aeon shorts, and the animation quality is perhaps the best in the series (along w ith episode 9, "The Purge", also produced at GANA). The storyline is also perhaps the most linear-- probably the reason why MTV decided to move it up from its original #4 slot. Again, the true intent of Aeon's actions are left mysterious until the end-- her goal was not to kill the Seraph Trevs, as Una believes, but to unite them with one another. In the process, her relationship with Una undergoes an irrevocable change.The original draft of the script, by Todd French, was much tri ppier, with a larger proportion of surreal non-sequiturs, including a group of alien traders who deal with Ilbren for the male Seraph-Trev. Due to complexity and unwieldiness, many cuts were made. I somewhat wish that some of the more outlandish elements had been kept in;
Still, the show (#2) stands up well to repeated viewings thanks to the richness of expression in the character animation (sorely lacking in #1). MTV toned down slightly the implied lesbian relationship between Aeon and Una, which, I think, would have added extra weight to the final moment of escape when Una flies away with the male Seraph-Trev. The Seraph-Trevs are not aliens, they are either mystical or genetically engineered by Trevor (take your pick).
Episode 3, "Thanatophobia", is perhaps the most psychologically complex of all the episodes. It's based on a story I wrote originally for the second Liquid T.V. season before I decided to resurrect Aeon for a second round of shorts. The inspiration for the border came from thinking about the division between North and South Korea. It's about the yearning to escape and the exploitation of boundaries, both mental and actual. It's also Romeo and Juliet in reverse, where the presence of obstacles is in fact taken advantage of by a man seeking to dump his lover. It's also a variation on "Rear Window" where both sides of the window are spyingon the other... Aeon and Sybil are next door neighbors who never speak to one another directly; Sybil loves Onan; Onan loves Aeon; Trevor is fascinated by Sybil (her disloyalty as a Breen, her curious sexual attribute); Aeon sympathizes with Sybil, tries to help by discouraging her desire to be with Onan by seducing Onan in plain view, but only makes matters worse; by the time Aeon offers to carry Sybil across the border, it's too late-- jealousy and suspicion have taken root; Sybil works all day in a Breen factory making machine parts; every night, Aeon enters same factory, destroys them; Onan eggs on Sybil to make the crossing (hoping she'll fail); Sybil finds she can only experience sexual pleasure through Trevor's manipulation of the very wound caused by his border control gun (political-sexual metaphor-- what else?); Sybil talks-- giving away the 7981 plant saboteur's identity-- betraying Aeon and, in Trevor's eyes, her own loyalty to Bregna; Aeon, in a final attempt to prevent tragedy (Sybil's obsessive desire to cross), returns Onan to Sybil; again, too late-- Sybil no longer loves him, she must escape... escape is all that matters... ; she runs to the border gap; no guns fire; she's caught in the machine which she (unknowingly) helped construct-- the very mechanism Aeon had been sabotaging all along.... I'm afraid I could go on and on dissecting this story-- the political aspect, the sexual aspect, the formalaspects (the stockings in the window; The play/fighitng kids; the absurd open gap in the wall, inviting escape while the recovery vehicle lurks hidden); the Aeon Flux aspect (a glimpse of her domestic life?) etc... but I won't. It's one of the most successful in terms of achieving my intended effects. Unfortunately, the episode's running length came out a bit long and the on-air version suffers a bit from being compressed; also, BS&P removed a couple of the most orgasmic of Sybil's screams.
Episode 4 "A Last Time for Everything". Someone who gave an explanati on on the message board (sorry, can't remember who) got it right . Anyway-- it shouldn't matter whether the original or the copy is the one dying at the end. Trevor's process creates exact duplicates, not clones (which are only genetically identical). In the green grotto scene, the two Aeons do discuss the murder of the original by the copy.
Aeon 1: "When I'm done..."
Aeon 2: "... kill you."
For whatever reason, this ep. seems to be the popular favorite so far... ( wait till #9)
It's getting late, I've been on Drew's phone line for too long....Here's a quick rundown on the episode titles (dropped in favor of the text intros currently in use)
#5 "The Demiurge"
#8 "Ether Drift Theory"
#9 "The Purge"
#10 "End Sinister"
The Aeon Flux book (and accompanying poster) is coming in lateOctober. CD Rom to come in 96.
― Peter Chung, Tuesday, 20 March 2012 16:24 (eleven years ago) link
Wow, great to see your still up for posting things here, Peter. Glad I still check back now and then. I will read your post when I've got a bit more time.. I hope you will also posts updates here about upcoming projects of yours.
Kind regards from one of the greenspun crowd!
― Sam G, Monday, 26 March 2012 22:02 (eleven years ago) link
Thanks for this Peter, it's good to see you're still lurking around here. I remember reading this when it was posted... wow, going on 20 years ago now.
― Matt Rebholz, Friday, 13 April 2012 23:10 (eleven years ago) link
Same here, it's been a long time, but I recognize a lot of that text. Also, retroactive lol at MTV toning down a lesbian subplot
― Nhex, Saturday, 14 April 2012 02:23 (eleven years ago) link
I was around 12 years old when AEon Flux's half hour episodes came out. Shit I feel old.
― Dadalama, Monday, 15 October 2012 03:54 (eleven years ago) link
I was 16, so I know the feeling.
― Matt Rebholz, Wednesday, 17 October 2012 22:40 (eleven years ago) link