Cronenberg’s new sci-fi body horror is packed with fascinating ideas, but the film somewhat falls short in its half-baked attempt to realise them.
Dir. David Cronenberg
2022 | Canada/Greece | Drama/Sci-Fi/Horror | 108 min | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity and some language
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Plot: Accompanied by his partner Caprice, celebrity artist Saul Tenser publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances. Their movements are tracked by Timlin, a young investigator, as well as a mysterious group set on shedding light on the next phase of human evolution.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: Rocket Science
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing – Performance Art, Human Evolution
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: In Theatres – Shaw Lido
David Cronenberg is no doubt a visionary, putting eye-opening, sometimes queasy and disturbing, stories up on the big screen that few would dare to, but he has rarely succeeded as a screenwriter.
In his new sci-fi body horror, a cult subgenre he first popularised back in the ‘80s with films like Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986), we see the flaws of his screenwriting, particularly in matters of tacky dialogue and narrative incoherence.
Still, there are aspects to be appreciated, and perhaps Crimes of the Future (no relation to his 1970 movie of the same name) works best as a conceptual exercise, one that provokes us to think about a myriad of ideas, though not necessarily feeling them.
In Cronenberg’s dystopian world, humans must adapt to a post-flesh world, where biological mutations commingle with the synthetic. There are limitless possibilities but also dangerous precedents—whichever the case is, they share something in common: it’s all political.
“Surgery is the new sex.”
However, mutations are artistic for Viggo Mortensen’s Saul and Lea Seydoux’s Caprice. They perform surgery live in front of an appreciative audience, as Caprice removes new organs that have sprouted in Saul’s body.
Cronenberg shows us everything, which can be quite disturbing for a slightly more mainstream arthouse-type film, though it is far from truly shocking for cinephiles who have seen it all.
Kristen Stewart has a bewitching supporting role as a sexually-repressed woman who is intrigued by Saul and Caprice’s art, but it is a pity that Cronenberg had used her so sparingly.
Crimes of the Future poses the age-old question: is it more ethical to follow nature’s belligerent course even if it leads to Man’s destruction, or alter and supplant it with transhumanist technology that puts him in a moral quandary?
Cronenberg’s film, unfortunately, somewhat falls short in its half-baked attempt to realise some of these ideas.