“Crimes of the future”: Cronenberg’s savage horror film as a metaphor

Most filmmakers who want to throw you off balance in a horror movie will use a familiar set of tools: slashers, demons, shock cuts, soundtracks that go boom! the night. But in “Crimes of the Future,” writer-director David Cronenberg wants to provoke and disturb us with something far more traumatic than just monsters.

Am I talking about the fact that in the distant future where the movie takes place, human beings develop mysterious new organs in their bodies? Or that surgically removing these organs has become, for a creepy rebellious aesthete named Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), a kind of performance art? Or that people no longer feel physical pain, and so will stay out on the streets late at night cutting each other for cheap thrills, like shooting each other heroin in an alley? Or that surgery itself, as someone says, has become “the new sex”?

If you see “Crimes of the Future”, you will witness all of these outrages, and a few more. Yet the film’s most off-putting aspect is none of these awkward events. It’s the fact that “Crimes of the Future” makes you feel like you’re being attacked by metaphors. It’s a body horror movie that keeps developing new “ideas”. Like most of Cronenberg’s films, it works from head to toe.

Cronenberg has always been a metaphor junkie. His first film to play theatrically, “They Came From Within” (1975), is set in a Toronto residential complex where slippery parasites transform residents into raging sex beasts – libido zombies. In “The Brood” (1979), his first film to win the critical acclaim that would stick with Cronenberg for the next 40 years, a woman in the midst of a custody battle parthenogenetically gives birth to a generation of dwarf children who are presented as the embodiments of his “rage”. By the time he arrived at “Videodrome” (1983), his first major studio production, Cronenberg began to go wild with metaphor, crafting a hallucinatory thriller about sex, violence and technology that culminates in the stomach of someone turning into a VCR. . The last words spoken by the hero are “Long live the new flesh”.

Cronenberg has long been obsessed with Old Flesh versus New Flesh. What is the new flesh? It is flesh that changes, that mutates, that comes from within. It’s cancer. It is the eruption of a forbidden emotion. It’s also representative of something about us that is “evolving”. Cronenberg more or less patented the genre of body horror, which means that for him the body is never just the body. He embodies the people – and monsters – we are into. They are bad dreams made flesh.

Some of the “crimes of the future” are bloody and disturbing to see, if not quite on the “Warning! May be too much for the faint-hearted! level that the film is worthy of William Castle advance publicity suggested. That said, the film, like so many of Cronenberg’s films, is a head-turner that’s really, just below, a thoroughly chewed-up, cerebral experience. It’s an outrageous nightmare that keeps telling you what to think about what it means.

Cronenberg has become an incredibly eclectic filmmaker (his work includes adaptations of “M. Butterfly” and “Naked Lunch,” the graphic thriller “A History of Violence,” the psychotic maze movie “Spider,” and the Freud and Jung costume . drama “A Dangerous Method”), but “Crimes of the Future” marks a return to the formative sponginess of his early films. It also has ties to the conceptual “transgression” of “Crash”. This movie remains the most infamous of Cronenberg’s career, but not because it’s so taboo. Rather, anyone with common sense would look at it and think, “Really? Car accidents as erotic excitement? Is this a joke?”

“Crash” was Cronenberg pushing his metaphorical madness against the wall, and he does the same in “Crimes of the Future.” But it’s a much more compelling film, because in its dark future, it invites you into the bloody dystopia it creates. The film draws you in and draws you in, supported by Howard Shore’s fantastic score, which sometimes evokes the slow movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony rewritten by Boris Karloff.

The film opens with a boy taking bites out of a plastic wastebasket, and his mother then smothering him with a pillow – presumably because she can’t stand having a child munching on wastebaskets. (Turns out that’s exactly the reason.) We then cut Saul Tenser, the performance artist from surgical hell, waking up in an organic seed pod that looks like it was purchased from a furniture store. called Crate and Alien. It is in fact an OrchidBed, designed to anticipate and adapt to all the needs of the body. Saul sleeps in one because that’s how shiny, damaged and sensitive he is. (He also has an even weirder chair to eat from, which makes him look like a stroke victim.) Mortensen imbues the character of a wounded mystique with creeping rock-star transcendence. Walking around in his hooded shawl, he sounds like Death of “The Seventh Seal” crossover with Kirk Douglas, though he speaks in a gravelly purr that may make you think of several Batmans.

“Crimes of the Future” was filmed in Greece, and the sets have a crumbly European flavor that feels like Venice at 3 a.m. Yet it is a world far beyond ours. Thanks to “Accelerated Evolution Syndrome”, the human race is mutating (that’s why the pain disappears) and “office surgery” has become a thing. Saul does his performance art in collaboration with his companion, Caprice (an insinuating Léa Seydoux); they plan each show as a sort of medical-theatrical catharsis. As the audience stands there in awe, staring at the music throbbing, Saul lies down on the operating table and Caprice, using a jelly-controlled panel, wields claws that look like skeletal arms. to cut it open and separate his abdomen, reaching inside for the new organ he harvested. Is this a sick show? Absolutely. But only in a Cronenberg film would it be presented as a form of entertainment.

There is a conspiracy. It has something to do with the National Organ Registry, a very William S. Burroughs-like organization that tracks new organ growth — it’s run by bumbling bureaucrat Wippet (Don McKellar) and his son Timlin (Kristen Stewart). panting and shy assistant, who is so excited to watch Saul’s latest surgical performance that she turns around for him, as if he’s the Jim Morrison of public tumor removal. Stewart, at times, appears to do an “SNL” parody of Kristen Stewart at her most nervous, but she does it knowingly; his scenes have a charge.

There is another organization, this one having nothing to do with the sinister government. It’s a cult of people who have undergone their own evolution, which leads them to produce and eat what appear to be purple candy bars. Yes, another metaphor! But don’t worry, everything will be explained. There’s also a nightclub scene with a dancer who has sewn-on eyes and lips and ears all over his body. In “Crimes of the Future,” you get the feeling that Cronenberg wants to be William Castle, William S. Burroughs, and HR Giger all rolled into one.

This 8-year-old boy who was killed in the opening scene returns to the film. His father, Lang (Scott Speedman), wants to give the corpse to Saul and Caprice so they can do an autopsy during one of their performances. Once you’re on the movie wavelength, even a twist like this doesn’t throw you off. It’s like, “Nightclub dissection of the kid who ate wastebaskets?” Why not?” I won’t divulge what’s going on, except to say that the child’s father is one of those purple candy eaters, and it has everything to do with how the underground cult — and can -being the human race – evolves.The theme of “Future Crimes”, sealed by its final scene, could be: you are what you eat.Which is provocative in Cronenberg’s grand metaphor, but also a bit corny in this subject is that it has to do with technology and how it changes us, but the director’s point of view, as it has been for decades, is that of someone who looks askance at technology because he finds her foreign. What if not? “Crimes of the Future” will prove too extreme for most viewers, but one of the reasons why the film is so extreme is that it is mired in fears that most of them have long looked past.

Comments are closed.