In Crimes of the Future, artists let an audience watch while their mutated and tattooed organs are surgically removed. Has a new David Cronenberg arisen? Nope, the old one is resurrected.
Crimes of the Future is a tantalisingly poetic title. Had he not come up with it, David Cronenberg might have called his latest film The Plastic Eaters, by analogy with Vincent Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters. His first film since Maps to the Stars (2014) depicts a dark but intriguing near future and was shot in Greece without sunshine. Part of humanity aspires to be able to eat plastic. If we are producing so much synthetic waste, why not put it to good use? Pain is a pleasure to be pursued. High-tech bizarre dining chairs and womb-like beds help people with Accelerated Evolution Syndrome. They develop unknown organs with the craziest shapes.
Viggo Mortensen, Cronenberg's fetish actor from A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, plays a leading performance artist who explores the new world with both torment and fascination. He allows himself to be operated on live in front of an enthralled audience seemingly unable not to watch. The surgeon who removes his mutated and tattooed organs is also his mistress, played by Léa Seydoux. Among his greatest and most rabid fans is the employee of the National Organ Registry played by Kristen Stewart from Spencer.
In his Golden Palm-nominated comeback film, Cronenberg philosophically and cinematically builds on the astonishing films from the first half of his illustrious career. Some knowledge of Shivers, The Fly, Videodrome and Crash is recommended. Sometimes it even feels like a medley. Some of the reflections on art feel like nitpicking. Most of the time, the film is jaw-dropping and stimulates your mind like the provocative cinema as only the Canadian visionary knows how to come up with.
The director who excelled in body horror rightly notes that body horror is an unfortunate name for his work. Certainly Crimes of the Future is more body art than body horror. It makes us look at how the new times are affecting us spiritually and physically, not with fear or horror but with wonder and curiosity. It reflects on what the new human infected by technology and unknown biology might look like and asks how society will respond to the disruption. Its observations, thoughts and questions are artistically expressed through an extreme magnification of the physical mutations and transformations in a deliberately confusing, chilling and grotesque spectacle.
Anyone fancy a piece of plastic?
CRIMES OF THE FUTURE
CA, dir.: David Cronenberg, act.: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart