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Crimes of the Future

Director: David Cronenberg (Canada, Greece, UK). Year of Release: 2022

A woman watches her child on the beach, warning him not to eat anything dangerous. He more or less complies, but then returns home where he starts to eat a plastic litter bin. Human beings have now evolved so far that they can now eat plastic. The child’s mother wearily looks on at him and waits till he goes to bed. Then she takes a larger cushion and smothers him to death.

Maybe I am taking things too literally here, but could someone explain what this has to do with the theory of evolution? People are eating plastic now – why exactly? What is the evolutionary benefit? Or is this some sort of satire about the plastification of society? Humans accept so much cheap tat now, that this is what they’ll have to eat to survive? It’s a point of view, but I don’t quite follow the logic. Maybe I’ve been living in Germany for too long.

This is one of those sci-fi films which needs you to be intrigued by it’s premises. What happens in a society where humans are incapable of feeling pain? (apparently some of them go into extreme body surgery, as I’m sure a certain pseudy self-publicizer would, but this hardly tells us anything profound about the human condition). Is surgery the new sex? (well, if you say so). I’m not saying that there aren’t people who are interested in this sort of thing, just that I’m not one of them.

Crimes of the Future is set “some time in the future”. This is a conceit often used by sci-films to examine contemporary society, which only really works if you’ve got something interesting to say about the present. Maybe I lack the intellectual vision, but I find it hard to see what current problems this film is illuminating with any success. Yet without any real connection to contemporary issues, what we are left with is abstract intellectual masturbation. Just saying,

Anyway, back to the plot. Saul and Caprice are performance artists. Their speciality is live surgery – the results of which can be seen in a horizontal gash in Saul’s chest. Their success is made possible by Saul’s particular talent for producing new organs. This causes him pains during sleep, which are assuaged by his LifeFormWare bed. Saul and Caprice are called in for a meeting with the National Organ Registry, who insist that Caprice remove each organ and applies a proper tattoo.

There is also some sort of sub-plot related to the opening scene. The government is scared at increasing interest in propagating internal organs. It is never remotely clear whether this group is a serious threat or a bunch of clueless hippies. You have the feeling that Cronenberg or whoever wrote this shit, threw an idea on a wall without really thinking it through. This could work as effective social satire if it weren’t so interminably dull.

Is any of this making any sense to you? I guess that’s not the real question. Do you find any of this weird mystic stuff remotely interesting? Are you excited about knowing where any of this is heading? If you are, then you are going to have to wait for your disappointment when nothing really happens. By the time that became obvious, I’d already checked out long before.

This is not to see that the film was not worth making, if only because it provoked this comment from Eileen Jones: “The reports of people walking out, presumably sickened, at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film got a six-minute standing ovation — that’s one more minute than the ovation for Top Gun: Maverick — just go to show that Cannes audiences are, overall, pretty silly, and probably drunk.” Come to think of it, that may be the only reason it was worth making.

No, wait. You can’t have a film starring Viggo Mortensen and Lèa Seydoux which is bad on every level. They both ooze charisma, while being required to deliver senseless lines in annoyingly breathy voices. You get the feeling that on at least one level, Crimes of the Future is responding to the most Philistine criticisms of performance artists by showing such artists at their most punchable. Mortensen and Seydoux are believable which makes them even more annoying-

Tonight’s showing was a sneak preview, so I didn’t know beforehand what I was going to see, but I did happen to see the trailer a couple of days when I was in the cinema with a friend. After seeing the trailer, my friend asked me if there was any film genre I would not go to on principle (you can guess why). My answer was maybe RomCom, more likely Marvel megablockbuster, but Cronenberg films often contain enough invention not to dismiss them before you see them.

I forgot to add that many Cronenberg films also contain so much alienation and nihilism, that you’re not really sure what the point of them is. Added to this, look I know that body horror or whatever it’s called is exciting for some and disgusting for others. I tend to just see excess prosthetics or CGI, and find it hard to get worked up either way. When Cronenberg doesn’t work for me – as he doesn’t really here – it’s less because he’s repulsive and more that he’s dull.

Go and see it if you want. I really can’t stop you. It may well work for you in a way that it just didn’t for me.

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