Thursday, June 1, 2023


May 24, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

It would be impossible to provide a synopsis of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future without making the plot seem downright ludicrous. Take the opening scene, for example: An eight-year-old boy is playing with the gravel by the seashore when his mother calls him inside. He dutifully obeys, heads for the bathroom, brushes his teeth, then squats next to the sink, grabs the plastic wastebasket below it, and begins eating it. A short time later, while he is asleep, his mother enters his room, fetches a pillow, and suffocates him. Then, after briefly weeping, she calls her husband, informs him that she has murdered the “creature” and demands that he pick up the body. Later, when he does, he begins to weep, too — not, apparently because he has lost a son but because the boy represented a historic scientific achievement. The father, it seems, belongs to a group of human experimenters who had been manipulating their own bodies with hormones and organ modifications so that they could digest plastic, and now the boy had been born as the result of their experiments, genetically modified at birth, the first of his kind. Voilá! No more need to return plastic bottles to the recycling center or toss the kids’ broken toys in the trash. Serve them up for dinner, instead.

It turns out that Cronenberg’s story takes place in a future dystopian time when the body is undergoing all manner of reconstructions at the hands of desktop scientists and when people now attend “performances” by body surgeons who are adept at eliminating pain and can even alter the senses so that watching the surgeries can produce sexual stimulation. The most famous of these performance artists is the protagonist, portrayed by Viggo Mortensen, whose body has undergone numerous revisions, although he is now having to deal with a few glitches. He’s having trouble swallowing, for example. And his voice is a bit raspy. And he’s cold a lot — so often that he must wear what appears to be a monk’s hooded cowl throughout most of the film (that is, when he’s not exposing his body, outside and inside, for his art).

OK. The story is downright ludicrous, and Daily Variety reported that “dozens” of people attending the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival Tuesday night walked out beginning at about the halfway point. But this is very much a David Cronenberg movie, and Cronenberg does have his admirers, and critics do seem obliged to take what he produces seriously. For example, Geoffrey Macnab in the London Independent observed that the film is “full of provocative ideas and very lurid imagery. But the storytelling is cold and detached. … This isn’t at all a smooth ride.” Raphael Abraham in the Financial Times called it “fascinatingly strange.” And Todd McCarthy in Deadline concluded that despite Cronenberg’s exploitative use of blood and guts throughout the film, it remains “serious, elegant and provocative enough to cut it as an art film” at the Cannes Film Festival.