Crimes of the Future

Crimes of the Future ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"if the police did an autopsy, what do you think they'd find inside?"

"outer space."

people were understandably excited when this was announced as cronenberg's return to "body horror" but i don't think that's actually a useful way to think about this film. while saul tenser insists that he uncomfortable with the ways in which his body is mutating and evolving (so much so, in fact, that he's willing to work with the police to subvert groups who relish that mutation). but the gentle (and profoundly feminine) pleasure of his gestures during his first performance betray an obvious thrill at the experiences his new organs provide. surgery is the new sex, after all, and he's not very good at the old one. he can only admit the thrill he feels about his bodily changes under the cover of performance, a veil of plausible deniability that, of course, inevitably ends in the "designer cancer" being removed. he is clearly precious about his work, dismissing the earman klinek who has sutured non-functional organs all over himself as "escapist propaganda." it's a kind of gatekeeping that can only come from someone unable to admit to themselves the depths of their own involvement. saul doesn't want to see himself in klinek, who altered his body on purpose. by contrast, insists he "never really knows" when he's working on something new. saul sees his body's changes as "rebellion", and his only agency being in his removal of the parts that are wrong. asked if he's removed all of his new organs, he easily replies, "who wouldn't?"

the horror is not in the changes to the body, but in the different ways people try to force meanings onto it. the dead boy, brecken, will never get to decide for himself what his body means. his lifeless corpse becomes the site of relationship arguments, radical transhumanism, regressive political sabotage, a setting for someone else's art. everyone is trying to make meaning out of his body, and he'll never get the chance to have a say. "the boy's not talking" as his father flippantly says. when caprice introduces the question of consent into the planned performance, he retorts, "i'm the boy's father, i give my consent." it's astonishing that this film was released in the exact moment that it was, when every day we have to listen to politicians litigate the bodies of trans kids, forcing their own agendas and meanings onto children who just want to live comfortable, healthy, normal lives. "and now why know why there will be a second autopsy, and a third," caprice says, in tears at what the world has done to this child. the government stepped into brecken's autopsy behind the scenes, making his organs appear brutally ordinary and generic, to avoid public reveal of just how different he was. detective cope shrugs off the desecration of brecken, whose true nature we never see. "you wouldn't have known what you were looking at."

after this, saul is clearly disgusted with his undercover work. he wanted so badly to distance himself from the "rebellion" of his body (caprice says he always thinks each performance is the last time, and he's "always wrong", perhaps more wishful thinking than saul initially lets on), to control himself and maintain the facade of normal humanity. it's only when he surrenders himself to it, admitting his physical difference by eating the synth bar, that he can experience a moment of true, rather than performed, bliss. the people he was selling out are his people, and he's finally ready to join them. there are plenty of quasi-metaphorical trans narratives in cinema, but i think this is one of the most poignant. like last year's the matrix resurrections, crimes of the future is about the pain of denial and the euphoria of truth. it gets into much thornier areas by depicting the projection of that denial onto others, how self-loathing becomes willing participation in one's own oppression. that final shot refers obviously to the passion of joan of arc, so elegantly connecting the agony and the ecstasy of religious devotion to the feeling of oneness with one's own body. "body is reality," but it is only one's own reality, and no one else's.

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