Ridley Scott’s “Thunder Perfect Mind” (2005)

Of director Sir Ridley Scott’s many artistic strengths, his sensitivity to the feminine experience sets him apart from other male filmmakers of his generation.  A childhood governed solely by his mother while his father was fighting World War 2 abroad cemented the idea in Scott’s young mind that women are inherently “strong”, and can display said strength in many ways without resorting to conventionally-“masculine” traits.  Despite his long and celebrated history in commercial directing, this conservative, cigar-chomping male in his late 60’s nevertheless must have seemed like an odd choice to helm branded content for Prada perfume. Indeed, Scott’s inescapably masculine perspective prevents him from fully understanding the complex experiences of womanhood.  Enter: his daughter, Jordan Scott, who shares directing credit on 2005’s THUNDER PERFECT MIND, a five minute tone poem about the many identities and disguises worn by the modern cosmopolitan woman.  

THUNDER PERFECT MIND details a series of vignettes that find model Daria Werbowy moving about the sleek 21st-century cityscape of Berlin with a breezy mobility enabled by taxicabs, underground trains, and a propulsive underlying jazz score.  For all its preoccupations with modernity, the lyrical sentiments expressed by Werbowy’s voiceover are actually quite ancient— her words are a verbatim reading of “The Thunder, Perfect Mind”, a Gnostic text written in the 1st or 2nd century AD and thought lost until its rediscovery in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt.  The idea of the poem’s usage was Jordan’s, and the case should be made that she is the primary creative driver behind THUNDER PERFECT MIND.  The elder Scott’s role in the proceedings is less clear, but his hand is nonetheless evident throughout.  Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, who would go on to serve as Scott’s DP for A GOOD YEAR (2006), imbues the 35mm film image with a sleek urbanity that takes full advantage of the clean lines and cavernous contours of its architecturally-striking locales.  A neutral palette employs limited use of striking color against slate and metal tones, giving the piece an overall green/gray/blue hue punctuated by pops of brilliant yellow (a radiant dress) or warm orange (incandescent practicals).  The strongest evidence of the elder Scott’s participation arguably lies in a striking nightclub sequence, which deploys moody atmospherics like smoke, light shafts and lens flares to give depth to an otherwise dark interior.

THUNDER PERFECT MIND’s cinematic pedigree afforded a premiere at Berlinale— an honor not usually accorded to branded content.  Its arrival also heralded Scott’s increasing inclusion of his family into his artistic process. He was already slipping his partner, Giannina Facio, into any cameo he could since 2000’s GLADIATOR, but what’s rather remarkable is that all three of his children — Jordan, Luke, and Jake — chose to follow in his directorial footsteps.  Like their father, they would thrive in the commercial world, building upon the foundations he had established with RSA. In recent years, they have become more involved in his theatrical work as well, crafting side shorts and other content to support recent works like PROMETHEUS (2012), ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) and BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017).  As of this writing, Jordan is the only Scott child to share full directing credit with the elder Ridley, and he seems to largely cede the ego of his craft into the background in a bid to let his daughter’s burst forth— a testament to the venerated filmmaker’s admiration and profound respect for the power of womanhood.

THUNDER PERFECT MIND is currently available via the YouTube embed above.