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Classic Cronenberg Returns with Crimes of the Future


Crimes of the Future screening provided by Cinema Nova

“The body horror master returns with an entertaining musing on art and the future.”

A name so synonymous with a filmmaking and writing sensibility as Cronenberg will always elicit anticipation when a new film arrives in theatres, even if those sensibilities have always limited his audience reach. In Crimes of the Future (2022), the body horror master returns with an entertaining musing on art and the future.

Centering on performance artists Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux), the duo fear their act is growing stale in the ever evolving human landscape. The act in question is a public surgery, performed on a discontinued piece of equipment that is pure Cronenberg design, with Saul as the subject with his strangely growing new organs, and Caprice as the surgeon. The object of these new, questionable organs are at the heart of this curious yet engrossing film.

The film opens with a ghastly act of violence that will sit in your stomach for its runtime, even through all of its quirks. Crimes of the Future holds a certain power over its audience in a way very few films do, displaying its dense world and character building on a cold, steel autopsy table.

What has always allowed Cronenberg’s films to flourish is his adept casting and ability to get unique performances out of his actors. Each performance here, from Mortensen and Seydoux’s sensuality, to Kristen Stewart’s somehow nervier than usual energy, is so tightly wound with their own eccentricities which allows each scene to function separately from the last. 

Besides the immaculate production design, the film feels cohesive through a beguiling and enchanting score by longtime collaborator Howard Shore, which amplifies the more contemplative and noir frequencies of Cronenberg’s vision.

Cronenberg’s visceral, low-fi, science fiction nightmare creations return in the machines of this future world, including an organ bed and a bone-crafted breakfast chair that will haunt your dreams.

(from left) Caprice (Léa Seydoux) and Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) in Crimes of the Future

(from left) Caprice (Léa Seydoux) and Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) in Crimes of the Future

“Surgery is the new sex” becomes the moniker for the film, an idea that grows and changes over the runtime in provoking ways that will stay with you long after the credits roll. In a film designed to echo both the characters and Cronenberg’s older works, this line works as both a callback to the iconic Videodrome line “long live the new flesh”, as well as reinforcing a similar idea of technology shifting our evolution and thought patterns.

Crimes works as a more meditative film because of its thought provoking ideas about finding meaning in one’s own life and work, and finding meaning in one’s own body, especially when that body is seemingly evolving itself against you. These are dense ideas Cronenberg is working through here, showing again why he is in a class on his own in terms of thoughtful sci-fi filmmaking.

However, the film is not this humourless, essayistic bore that only belongs in a film studies class. Cronenberg and the cast pack the film with a wry sense of adventure and play within this creative piece of world building, giving the audience a chance to laugh in between wincing at the filmmaker’s creations.

The only issues the film has are due to its more contemplative approach to storytelling in comparison to early Cronenberg classics. The Torontonian auteur is just as thought provoking as ever, but the film is formed closer to a stage play than a fully formed cinematic expression. The script is quite beautiful but you can’t help but ask for more of each element, as its stripped down nature grows to feel less of an asset and more a flaw.

Crimes of the Future is an amalgamation of ideas and thoughts that the auteur has been working with for decades, arriving at a hazier middle ground that is quite moving in its almost sentimental nature. The film climaxes with a stirring monologue by Seydoux that releases the tension the film has been building up until that point that will leave you with more complicated ideas on evolution, our decaying world, and art than any film you see this year.

Crimes of the Future opens exclusively at Cinema Nova from the 25th of August, 2022. 


Darcy Read

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