Published on June 4th, 2022 | by Craig Silliphant0
Crimes of the Future
Cronenberg’s new film, Crimes of the Future, has a lot to say. Or does it? It’s a fascinating head scratcher featuring his trademark body horror.
Iconic Canadian director, David Cronenberg, released his second film called Crimes of the Future this year. The first one was in 1970 (it was an interesting premise, but a pretty ho-hum film). However, other than some thematic ideas that show up throughout his filmography, the two films don’t share much beyond the title.
2022’s Crimes of the Future takes place in a future where the world has been damaged by unspecified environmental issues. We see overturned, rusted out ocean liners and pretty much every building we inhabit looks like it hasn’t been dusted in 30 years.
Humanity may have been affected by the changes in their ecology. They no longer feel pain or become infected when injured. That is, except for a small segment of the population who have what has been classified as a disease, but could also just be the next evolution of mankind.. They grow mutant organs in their bodies, which must be removed and catalogued to stem the tide of such evolution. After all, what we don’t understand, we often classify as illness. Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux play two artists in the medium of surgery, which is both art and sex. “Surgery is the new sex,” quips Kristen Stewart’s character.
Cronenberg has crafted a film that is as thoughtful as it is gross. It’s as much for art house fans as it is for horror hounds. It is definitely not for the multiplex crowd, nor is it for the squeamish. It plays around in his old milieu of body horror and Existenz-style organic technology. Sometimes it’s bloody disconcerting in the most effective ways. In other moments it flirts dangerously with self-parody. There were a few chuckles over some of the weirder moments, when he was probably going for discomfort.
If it’s not parody then it’s a culmination of his work. It circles around themes of beauty, inner beauty, environmental disorder, creativity, art, sex, evolution, and more.
The problem is, if Cronenberg was trying to say something, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. You could easily file this under abstract. It wanders through ambiguity in ways that are both interesting and frustrating. Plotlines are brought forth, only to be forgotten. Characters are introduced that do things that seem important, yet those things are never explained, nor who those characters were or who they were working for.
Still, the actors commit. Mortensen is believable, grunting and choking his way through the film like a man constantly growing new organs. Seydoux has some moments that are honest and brave. Don McKellar is likeably smarmy. Even Scott Speedman has a good turn as a cult leader of sorts. Lihi Kornowski has only two scenes, but is especially good as a mother disgusted by her own mutant child. The only person who is doesn’t hit the note is Kristen Stewart, who turns her normal twitchiness up to 11. I have a lot of respect for her in the last few years, after films like Spencer and Personal Shopper, but she’s way off here.
In the end, I had more questions than answers, which I presume was Cronenberg’s intention. I don’t know that it’s a good intention here though. Crimes of the Future had a lot of fascinating ideas, many well executed. I didn’t dislike it. But I can’t say I loved it either. It’s weird enough to be watchable, but it never really comes into focus in a satisfying way.