David Cronenberg Gets Back to Basics in Crimes of the Future – Vanity Fair

Posted: May 28, 2022 at 8:40 pm

Its too bad that the title Bodies Bodies Bodies is already taken (by an upcoming horror film), because it would be a great name for David Cronenbergs new film, Crimes of the Future, which premiered here at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday. Cronenbergs first film in eight years is about body obsession, imagining a time maybe decades (or more?) from now when humanity eagerly melds with the synthetic.

In some ways, Crimes of the Future is an eco-horror, an imagining of where our species might be headed now that there have been microscopic bits of plastic found teeming in nearly all of us. Cronenberg envisions a world in which people have begun mutating, producing new internal organs for as yet unknown purposes. While their use is sussed out, their existence has become a cult-like fascination, creating a new genre of performance art.

Viggo Mortensen plays just such an artist: Saul, a weather-beaten man whose body is working overdrive inventing new parts. These developments may be killing him. Or maybe its the constant surgeries, performed as public shows by his partner, Caprice (La Seydoux). These peculiar acts have caught the attention of culture vultures and of a government organization that tags new organs, as a way to delineate between regular anatomical matter and the ominous other stuff.

Theres a mystery at work in the film, gruesomely involving a murdered child. Saul and Caprice become ensnared in that bit of intrigue while continuing to explore what I suppose you could call their craft. The film is rather opaque in its plotting, forcing a viewer to lean forward, squinting to gain an understanding of just what is going on in these dank operating theaters and junkyard hangouts.

Crimes of the Future is more style piece than narrative story, a jumble of ideas and images that have been swirling in Cronenbergs singular mind for years now and are finally manifest and sallow. It may prove tricky for some to get on the films eerie-weird wavelength, though lifelong Cronenberg fans will no doubt be happy to see him mucking about in the gooey and grotesque after some time spent in the more polished realms of crime (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) and celebrity satire (Maps to the Stars). Crimes of the Future is undeniably a Cronenberg film, with its mecha-organic contraptions that look like bones (a la eXistenZ) and the faintest of wry smiles curling up at the pictures edges.

As he has done before, Cronenberg makes great use of Mortensen, who plays Saul with a disarming warmth that stands in pleasant contrast to the broader films chilly murk. Mortensen has vital chemistry with Seydoux. Together they create a recognizably human dynamic amid so much otherworldly strangeness and unease. That the people in Crimes of the Futureincluding Kristen Stewart, as a perhaps overly invested government organ trackerare very much people, not unlike those wed meet in our reality, gives the film a crucial grounding. With these sturdy anchors in place, Cronenberg can stretch his film toward the various gonzo directions of his singular interest.

Much early hay has been made about the body-horror aspect of Cronenbergs film, buzzed about as a film that would send Cannes audiences running for the exits to escape its gory onslaught. Take it from a squeamish person that much of that chatter has been overblown. There are some gnarly things in the movieparticularly a bit of mouth play on an open wound (of a sort) that will dreadfully linger in my head for some timebut for the most part, Cronenbergs approach to these surgical oddities is clinical enough to prevent true revulsion.

Really, the most unsettling image in the film is Saul struggling to eat breakfast while he sits in a rattling, yanking kind of chair made of synthetic bone (I think), meant to stabilize or stimulate (Im really not sure I parsed that one) his body for ideal food consumption. Its quite frightening to think of a quotidian task made so strange and difficult by both failing personal health and technological advancement.

Though, is any of this actually advancement? Cronenberg is coy about whether what hes showing us is meant to startle us into action to prevent such a future, or if there is a cold comfort in its inevitability. Maybe the film is saying we should just sit back and await the surreal wonder of our own mechanical breakfast chairs. Or maybe hes making a sort of doomsday prophecy.

More here:
David Cronenberg Gets Back to Basics in Crimes of the Future - Vanity Fair

Related Post