Crimes of the Future
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Don McKellar, Scott Speedman, Welket Bungué, Tanaya Beatty, Nadia Litz
Cronenberg is very much in vintage body horror mode in this darkly amusing but conceptually overstuffed piece, set in the obligatory near future in a grotty, non-specific Interzone-like country. Advances in biotech means technology can interact with human bodies meaning that physical pain and infection have almost disappeared completely. One of the unexpected consequences is members of the public performing ‘desktop surgery’ and back street operations on each other for kinks.
After a supremely creepy prologue in which a small child happily munches on a plastic bucket, we are introduced to Saul Tenser (Mortensen) a performance artist, and his partner, ex- trauma surgeon Caprice (Seydoux). Their live performance, before an audience of amusingly impractical ring-camera wielding voyeurs, features Caprice removing Saul’s organs – Saul has a case of advanced Evolution Syndrome meaning he is constantly developing new ones. It also means that Saul is in constant pain and with severe respiratory issues and digestive problems. He is reliant and various biotech solutions for help, such as a jerky bone-like feeding chair and a huge insectoid-like pod where he reclines.
Following a visit to the shabby National Organ Registry, set up to catalogue new organs and monitor new mutations so the populace remain human, one of the registry’s employees, the timid assistant Timlin (the increasingly essential Stewart) becomes obsessed with Tenser’s performance. ‘Surgery is the new sex’ she breathily informs him. Also in the heady mix are a pair of saucy pod technicians, the splendidly-named Router and Berst (Litz and Beatty), a shady vice cop (Bungué), and a toxic energy bar-munching cult.
That’s an awful lot to cram into a 110-minute running time and the picture suffers from an excess of exposition-laden dialogue, as well as a general meandering dramatic inertness. Even the depiction of twisted eroticism a la ‘Crash’, while still queasy and definitely not for the feint-hearted, lacks the shock value this time around, so even the wound-fucking feels a little passé.
The picture is at its best when Cronenberg is exploring the darkly absurd aspects of sexual obsession, best personified here by Stewart’s nervy and pervy bureaucrat. Regular collaborator Howard Shore delivers a dreamily oppressive score and the haunting and audacious conclusion cheekily nods to Dreyer.
Crimes of the Future is released 9th September.
Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm