MR. PRODUCER, HI, Kenneth Branagh here. I've got this movie I want to make, called The Theory of Flight. It's about this failed artist named Richard—played by me—who has to work off some community service by taking care of a woman, played by Helena Bonham Carter, with one of those degenerative motor neuron disorders. She's going to die eventually, but at this point it's not bad, she's in a wheelchair and her speech is a little hard to understand—Helena's working on the accent and she's right on the edge of incomprehensibility, which I think is where we want to be. They're leery of each other at first, but they take a shine to one another after a wacky montage with a snappy song in the background. Richard reveals to Jane that he's building an airplane out of spare car parts, and Jane reveals to Richard that she wants to have sex before she dies. Now, for inexplicable reasons, Richard can't do the deed himself. He's a tortured soul. But he's played by me, so he's not too tortured—that's part of his torment! He knows he's as deep as a birdbath! I completely identify with his problem.
The Theory of Flight
directed by Kenneth Branagh
starring Helena Bonham Carter,
After some pointless dithering, Richard agrees to help Jane get laid. You're probably envisioning something realistic and squalid, but don't worry: One scene will show that Jane perceives other people with motor neuron diseases as unpleasant and grotesque, just like we do—well, I do, anyway. That way, the audience will identify with her. Some people will find this scene offensive—especially people with motor neuron disorders and their friends and family—but they can't be that large of a market share, so don't worry about them.
Next, they spot this handsome guy in a fancy hotel. Jane knows, intuitively, that he's a gigolo. It's absurd, but that's the charm! Richard asks the gigolo if he'll have sex with Jane. The gigolo demands 2,000, because having sex with someone so deformed would be so unpleasant. Now I know what you're afraid of here—if it's so unpleasant, no one watching the movie will want to think about it—but remember, Jane is played by Helena, who's got luscious lips and a creamy complexion and big gorgeous eyes and, you know, the rest of her's not so bad either. She'll look as lovely as ever despite the wheelchair and so on. Which contradicts all this stuff about how impossible it is for her to get laid, but that's where suspension of disbelief comes in. It's a movie, after all.
So, to raise the money, Richard decides to rob a bank—hello? Are you still with me?—see, he's nutty, he's depressed, he's trying to make some grand gesture that will validate his life. But having sex with Jane isn't enough of a gesture because, well, because then the movie would be about things people actually do, and I'm interested in metaphors. I'm an artist. Anyway, the robbery doesn't work out, the gigolo doesn't work out, they end up on Richard's plane, which actually flies—it's impossible, even kind of insulting, really, but that's what makes it so heartbreakingly wonderful! Trust me! I'm the man who made Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, remember? I know what I'm doing!