Directed by: David Cronenberg
Premise: In the near future human beings have adapted with some people losing the ability to feel pain and others acquiring the ability to digest synthetics like plastic. A pair of performance artists (Léa Seydoux and Viggo Mortensen) perform public surgery.
What Works: Filmmaker David Cronenberg’s early career was distinguished by body horror films such as Shivers and Videodrome and The Fly which combined grotesque thrills with thoughtful storytelling. These movies used gore as a way to explore philosophical concepts about identity, community, technology, and the body. Crimes of the Future sees Cronenberg return to body horror and this film is an intelligent meditation on living in a world where pollution and manufactured goods have become embedded into the environment and into our bodies. The film contains a plethora of ideas and Crimes of the Future is fascinating to watch for the creative ways in which it visualizes these concepts. The movie grounds its ideas in corporal reality. The technology takes on an organic look that is at times indistinguishable from the characters and the surgery scenes are visceral but beautiful. Viggo Mortensen plays one half of a performance art act who has the ability to spontaneously grow new organs that are surgically removed as part of public exhibitions. These new organs are required to be registered with the state which is trying to control human evolution. Meanwhile, a whole industry has sprung up around humanity’s new medical needs and a political movement is fomenting around the changing nature of the body. Crimes of the Future uses fantasy to make provocative suggestions about the world in which we live. Viewers don’t have to look very deep into the movie to see parallels with contemporary concerns about ecological devastation and the social status of our bodies, especially with regard to sexuality and gender, as well as the link between our physical experience and political or ideological movements.
What Doesn’t: Crimes of the Future has so many ideas that the film becomes conceptually overwhelming. Rather than establishing one or two ideas and running with them, the filmmakers keep introducing new concepts throughout the story. This pulls Crimes of the Future in too many directions. The drama suffers from the excess of ideas. Videodrome and The Fly successfully balanced ideas with storytelling and embedded them together. The characters of those films were vivid and their stories had dramatic stakes. The ideas and the storytelling of Crimes of the Future are out of sync. As a result, the film comes across as a disjointed collection of scenes. Any individual sequence is well done and thought provoking, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Bottom Line: Crimes of the Future is conceptually bold and intelligently visualized but it’s not very good drama. The movie doesn’t invest enough in its characters or storytelling. There’s enough in the movie that is interesting to warrant viewing by David Cronenberg fans and body horror enthusiasts but it falls short of other films in this genre.
Episode: #905 (June 12, 2022)