Humanity itself is the vice…
In theatres tomorrow, Canada’s own king of cinematic provocation returns to the big screen Crimes of the Future. While it’s being touted as a return to form (and they aren’t wrong) there’s something really interesting and subversive that’s being added to the conversation that will last long after the credits roll.
As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances. Timlin (Kristen Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements, which is when a mysterious group is revealed. Their mission is to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.
While the film plays inside some obvious themes that Cronenberg has travelled as a story teller over the years; Crimes of the Future successfully gets less gross and more cerebral as it tries to have a discussion about the human race as a whole, and what the species really needs to survive.
Done in a sparse kind of visual style, this entry into the ‘body horror’ canon is actually a lot more subdued then you’d initially expect. There’s nothing in this film that is about being gross and shocking us, but rather it’s all meant to make us think of how we are changing as a species. How when one vice gets mandated out of our lives culturally that others will organically replace them.
It’s purposely paradoxical and vague, because there’s nothing here that is meant to answer any kind of questions about the human existence and where it is going and rather it is forcing us to ASK these questions.
The shock of it all lies in the perpetual rot that these characters are all inhabiting. From the chairs that help you chew and digest food to the new organs that Saul can grow and to the death of socialization and culture that basically glorifies surgery as a substitute for sex and human intimacy.
Through the setting of a sparse, rundown and seemingly abandoned coastal city scape, Cronenberg isn’t giving us something a la Crash in a shine confluence of flesh and metal, but rather he’s taking us into the aftermath of all that, in a space where humanity isn’t quite sure what it is supposed to be as celebrity culture, environmental crisis and the collapse of the modern ethical core have seemingly been washed away. It flows on its surreal nature and thanks to some stark and truly interesting performances.
Viggo Mortensen slides into Saul Tenser with ease as a man who is making the most of the new world he is in but knows can’t sustain itself. He knows what the world used to be and he looks at the changes that are happening around him, he’s not sure if there’s a legitimate way back. Lea Seydoux as game as his partner Caprice but the real performance gems come from a place you wouldn’t expect/
Both Don McKellar and Kirstin Stewart shine here as what is left serving as government officials of a sort. In particular Stewart who plays her character Timlin like she’s walking on the edge of a razor blade.
Scott Speedman is fine as a rebel leader and the likes of Nadia Litz, Tanaya Beatty and Lihi Kornowski get some moments to shine, but this film is less about performances and more about ideas that it wants us to leave the theatre with.
While the hard core David Cronenberg set might be a little disappointed at the lack of gore and viscera in this movie, Crimes of the Future is easily the most interesting thing that he’s done since 2005’s A History of Violence and more then worth a trip to the big screen.