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For a director considered one of a kind, and creating a unique vision for film with the birth of venereal horror, it seems interesting that David Cronenberg should return to the horror genre having been absent from the scene for 23 years. And yet, his latest entry, Crimes of the Future, (which shares the same title as his 1970 feature, but there the similarity ends) bears all the hallmarks of these earlier films in his canon of work combined with his more recent and psychological ventures. Where Cronenberg built his name through the physical and sensual characteristics of humanity, his other fascination in the metaphysical realm and human psyche has risen to the fore. 

There are familiar themes at play here with the advancements of humanity through biotechnology in this instance, but still the harbouring of infectious disease to remind us of our own frailty. The twist though is that infectious disease has been eradicated and humankind has been left with pushing the boundaries of morality without the risk of harm that can come about through surgical measures. These actions are now considered an art form; Cronenberg’s playground, a balance of art and physical horror with an intellectual bent, firmly in the mix. Confrontation is always at the heart of Cronenberg’s features, his curiosity to look at the way we shift and squirm a prime scrutiny of his work. In the opening scenes Crimes of the Future forces us into the realms of discomfort when a mother smothers her child with a pillow because she believes him to be inhuman.

In the film’s journey, we primarily follow Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), who has an accelerated evolution syndrome, where he can develop new internal organs. This leads him to perform live surgical procedures carried out by his partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux). Much like Max Renn in Videodrome, Tenser is driven by his pursuit of truth and this exploration spirals deeper into a loss of control and a fatal resolution.

Tenser weaves his way through an investigation that sees him employed by a governmental agency to infiltrate a group of radicals. This sees him rub shoulders with the National Organ Registry where Timlin (Kristen Stewart) and Wippet (Don McKellar) work. Timlin is immediately enamoured by Tenser and is sexually drawn to him. 

There’s also Lang (Scott Speedman) who is the father of the afore-mentioned boy killed by his mother. Lang’s story is also a tragic one, driven to investigate his son’s condition that allowed him to consume plastics with no detriment to the human body. 

All these avenues intertwine into one complete examination of the human soul, immersed in a world where the physical is no longer a barrier. With no obstacles in place, what does it mean to be human? A question that continues to guide Cronenberg’s pursuit.

The Prognosis:

Mortality is and always be the vessel of David Cronenberg’s interests, be it through venereal horror, metaphysical horror, or sensual and intellectual obsessions. His latest vehicle is a culmination of them all, and through his uniqueness Cronenberg manages to project potentially his most complete image of himself, but in doing so, some of that identity gets lost in this portrayal. Without the edges; Without the pointy edges of quirkiness; David Cronenberg, much like his own lead characters, Max Renn; Seth Brundle; Beverly and Elliot Mantle, become lost in his pursuits and finds his own personality engulfed into obscurity.  Yet I still find myself drawn by his vision.

  • Saul Muerte