5 Questions: ‘3 daYs” Chris Marks

“You never really know where you are in time or space. You don’t know if this is really Jesus. Or are you watching a manic depressive self-medicating with hallucinogens and his enabling friend?”

The Book of Luke’s recollection of Christ’s resurrection mentions nothing about slurred apostles carousing with divorcees in their time machines. Then again, the Bible has always been up to interpretation anyway, right? 

Scriptural accuracy is definitely not the goal in 3 daYs, a dizzying inversion of Christ’s second coming as envisioned by Wauwatosa’s Chris Marks. Affixing a Laurel and Hardy template to his frazzled version of Jesus and a bumbling apostle Peter, Marks and co-director Gil Petrovic strip away robes for hospital scrubs and lops off beards, producing saints that look more like Midwestern dads.

Staying true to his budget, Marks avoids hitting Roman elements of the period. He’s created an opaque, modernized screed of drunken Biblical fantasy that makes the audience work to reap its rewards. I talked with about those rewards — and any traces of Biblical baggage — for this latest installment of “5 Questions”:

1. Jesus. Time traveling. Debauchery. Where the hell did this story come from?

The story idea for 3 daYs came from my friend Gil. We were band mates back in college and have been friends for a quarter century. Gil has always had an interest in film and has pitched numerous ideas to me. This particular one really seemed to click. The idea kept transforming and for a while I felt like it had come off the rails. The script had drifted away from its simple idea, and we were up to 20 pages with no end in sight. I knew we weren’t going to make a feature and 20-plus pages was too long for the short genre.

2. It takes a while to figure out exactly what’s going on in 3 daYs. How important was it to let the audience put together what’s happening on their own?

The best way to dial it back was to make the whole thing nebulous, which we originally wanted. You never really know where you are in time or space. You don’t know if this is really Jesus. Or are you watching a manic depressive self-medicating with hallucinogens and his enabling friend? Clearly, Peter doesn’t have it together either, and I think the abusive dysfunctional relationship he has with Jesus plays well into a metaphor for organized religion in our society. I like films that make you think and spark a dialogue, and I hope 3 daYs does that. We don’t want to spoon-feed our ideas to the audience, but rather let them draw their own conclusions, so keeping the film open for interpretation was important. I completely expect that there will be people that don’t get it and that’s okay. The trade-off for doing a film this way is that it won’t have mass appeal, but Gil and I have never been mainstream in our creative endeavors.

3. Your designs for Jesus and Peter are very low-key and modern. Were you just saving on the costume and makeup budget?

Everything was very deliberate. The locations and car were exactly what we had described in the script. Inspired by Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, I’ve always liked the idea of putting a futuristic spin on old items or technology. The idea of a plain mid-70s sedan having the ability to travel interdimensionally or 90s analog cell phones with modern proprietary touch screens seemed like a great way to subtly mess with the audience’s perception of where or when this is. I wish we could’ve spent more time on the wardrobe for Jesus, but Gil and I were doing most of the pre-production ourselves, and we simply ran out of time.

4. Any reason for the stylized title?

I don’t recall exactly how we came up with the title look for 3 daYs, but I think it was originally a typo in an email from Gil, who almost never bothers to use the shift key. It was either that or Gil goofing around. Either way it stuck. Some people make the analogy that the “Y” is like a crucifix.

5. What type of reaction do you expect to get to the religious connection, however obliquely it’s actually presented?

We didn’t have the opportunity to show our film in Milwaukee last fall, so we rented a screen at the Fox Bay Cinema to share the film with friends, family, cast and crew. Of course we’ve had mixed reviews from “religious” people. It really seems to depend on an individual’s level of religious dogma, as to whether or not they have an issue. A neighbor of mine, who is a born-again Christian, really enjoyed the film and the same with a friend who is a practicing Catholic. Others have said they didn’t care for the film. Some don’t like the fact that we have deviated so far from the “original script.” I suppose some viewers might go on the defensive, having the foundation of their beliefs questioned. I imagine that we might ruffle some feathers, but that’s not our intent.

  • 3 daYs plays as part of “Beyond the Pale” on Fri, Apr 15 at 9:00p in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.