Crimes of the Future

Crimes of the Future ★★★★

NZIFF #2

"They still have the old power", Martin Scorsese said of Cronenberg's films in a 1984 Fangoria essay. For almost 50 years now, his films' mix of dark comedy, mental and bodily dissolution, kinky sex, and incisive social commentary have made him the undisputed master of body horror. Right from its opening scene of a child happily taking bites out of a plastic bin, white goo frothing from his mouth, and then being smothered with a pillow by his own mother, Crimes of the Future retains Cronenberg's power to shock and confront.

In an unspecified but not too distant future, humanity is evolving. Pain is nonexistent and people are developing strange new organs. Most of these new organs seem totally vestigial, but they are still seen as dangerous by those in charge. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux) are performance artists whose work exists at the edges of the what it means to be human: Saul grows new organs, turning his own body into a factory for biological art, while former surgeon Caprice removes the organs live on stage.

Through their work, Caprice and Saul come into contact with the National Organ Registry, a new bureaucratic body set up to catalog and control any new organs that people are growing. Kristen Stewart's performance as Timlin, one of the NOR workers, is possibly my favourite of the year. Truly strange and unpredictable, Timlin's speech is twitchy and faltering, switching between tense whispers and girlish squeals, every line is delivered as if she is a cartoon mouse on the verge of orgasm. It is, in a word, hot.

In a way, this film feels more of a piece with late-period Schrader than it does with most of Cronenberg's earlier work. More than ever, Cronenberg is exploring the limits of what it means to be human, and what is worth sacrificing in order for humanity to continue in a world that we are making increasingly inhospitable for ourselves.

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