79-year-old David Cronenberg can be called one of the pioneers of the now fashionable body horror. The films of this horror subgenre focus on the body and its changes and are not very similar to standard horror films: they are more vile and creepy than scary in the usual sense of the word.
The body and corporality as such is the theme of many of Cronenberg’s films, from The Fly, with its crossing of man and insect, to Existence, with virtual reality . And the plot of “Car Crash” in 1996 was almost completely repeated by the film “Titan”, which received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021 – critics were impressed by the story of a woman who has sex with cars.
In the new Crimes of the Future, Cronenberg reflects on the consequences of the evolution of the human body. The film shows a world in which almost no one feels pain, and new organs grow in the bodies – some dangerous, but often useless. Some people even purposefully grow organs with unusual functions – for example, helping to digest plastic.
In the center of the story is the artist and his partner. A man constantly grows new organs, and a woman removes them in front of the audience. This is not only a way for a couple to earn money and self-expression, but also an intimate interaction of a higher order – much more important than sex.
It stars Viggo Mortensen (driver in Green Book), Léa Seydoux (Bond girl in No Time to Die) and Kristen Stewart (Bella in Twilight). The music was written by Howard Shore – Cronenberg has been working with him since the film “The Brood” in 1979, since then the composer has created soundtracks for almost all the director’s films.
Body in the spotlight
In Crimes of the Future, the human body turns out to be not a silent carrier of consciousness, but a subject that influences people. It gives rise to new organs of bizarre shapes – they can be considered both tumors and a gift. How a person looks at it depends on his lifestyle. One rejoices in the ears that have grown all over the body. The other looks with disdain at the slight bulge on his stomach.
Dialogues emphasize the shift in focus. Not once in the film are the words “beautiful” or “attractive” addressed to people – the characters make compliments to organs and growths. It seems that everyone is only interested in the body: what you have grown and what kind of mucus it secretes.
Other questions often arise: to whom does the body belong, and can it belong to anyone at all? If it changes, creating organs that are in no way connected with the life of a person, does he have the right to perform operations? And who owns the dead body – can it be opened and examined? There is not a single answer throughout the entire film, which is typical of Cronenberg. He is generally not interested in clear answers to complex questions.
For some people, experiments with the body, in principle, become the only occupation in life. Why do we need a boring world around us, if our own inner world (in the literal sense) is much more diverse and interesting? Influencing growing organs can also be an attempt to become a god, albeit within the framework of one body.
“Crimes of the Future” shows how the art world adapts to the metamorphoses of the human body. The appearance of new organs is perceived by artists as actionism – a series of performances and happenings, which are an act of art.
For this reason, some see operations as violence against nature and art. The restriction of the body’s capabilities is presented as a restriction of freedom of speech.
The eternal question arises before the artists: what is a person? Does he control his body or, on the contrary, obey it? Among the characters there are those who come to the conclusion that there is no permanent human nature as such – it changes depending on bodily transformations.
Looking for new sex
“Surgery is the new sex,” says Timlin, played by Kristen Stewart. Timlin wants the protagonist, but she is not very interested in outdated intimacy, it is perceived as a handshake or a massage.
Operating a person turns into the highest, most complete form of intimacy. In one of the scenes, a woman gets an orgasm from the fact that she sawed a bone in her leg. In the other, the heroine puts her lips to the cut body of a man.
You can show trust in another person in a simple way: give him a scalpel and lie down on the operating table.
Cronenberg does not explain what happened to “old sex “. Probably, people’s obsession with the body has reached a level where ordinary touches are not enough. For this reason, the characters happily wield the scalpel as a more intimate item.
Not quite the future
In the modern world, people do not have new organs, but artists have long been thinking about corporality and conducting experiments with the body. The Prague feminist performances took place more than 50 years ago, and Marina Abramović held her most noisy actions in the 70s and 80s.
During the performance “Death to Yourself”, Abramovich and her partner Ulay connected their mouths with a special device and inhaled each other’s exhalations until the oxygen ran out. 17 minutes after the start of the action, both fell to the floor unconscious with lungs filled with carbon dioxide. As part of the Rhythm 0 performance, Abramovich allowed the audience to do whatever they wanted with her using 72 prepared items, including a knife and a gun. The longer the action lasted, the more violent its participants became. It all ended with a gun in the hands of one of the spectators.
The heroes of “Crime of the Future” in their desire to know someone else’s body also reach the most radical option, but this is not a question of the future. Essentially, Cronenberg takes the contemporary relationship of art to the body, but adds new bodily manifestations to the equation.
The only thing that really speaks of the future is fancy technology . Interestingly, they are all connected in one way or another with the body. It turns out that the concentration on it has reached such a level that other spheres of life have receded into the background, nothing needs to be created for them.
Genius magician Cronenberg
Friedrich Schiller came up with the concept of Entzauberung der Welt, that is, “disenchantment of the world”, according to which science and secularization remove mysticism and mythologemes from the world, making it simple, to some extent boring. Cronenberg battles this boredom throughout his career by making his paintings more complex.
The director is a real magician, a shaman who knows about the existence of the periodic table, but deliberately does not look into it.
As with many Cronenberg films, Crimes of the Future sometimes deals with scientific issues. And the beauty of the director is that he perfectly feels the line between mystery and explanation. He is ready to talk about physics or biology, but in passing, so as not to destroy the magic. Something strange happens: scientists put forward a couple of guesses, but on this they are always eliminated from the plot.
“Crimes of the Future” will not appeal to those who want to look at the amazing plot twists. Cronenberg refuses a full-fledged narrative, in which there is a beginning and an end. He is more interested in the images and motivations of people. You can replace the end of a movie with its middle, the middle with its beginning, and nothing will change dramatically.
You should not watch this tape if you are afraid of human organs and cut bodies – they appear in the frame too often.
But Crimes of the Future will appeal to Cronenberg fans – it is probably his best film in the last 20 years. Fans of the body horror genre will also be delighted.
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