Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Cronenberg double

"The television screen has become a retina of the mind's eye"
-- Professor Brian O'Blivion, Videodrome

I have to thank Michael Guillen from The Evening Class for inciting me to visit some of David Cronenberg's older films. Michael's review of Eastern Promises talked about the importance of skin in Cronenberg's films. Expanding on his words, I realized the human body takes center stage in all of Cronenberg's works. Ofcourse, horror films are driven by fear of the mind which eventually results in the physical body getting harmed. But Cronenberg has never made traditional horror films. His films have always scratched beneath the surface and in most cases, shattered the surface.

The human body:

--Videodrome (1983): Evolution of the human body.
--The Fly (1986): Physical transformation of the body.
--Dead Ringers (1988): Two bodies sharing one emotional spirit.
--M. Butterfly (1993): Hidden secrets of the human flesh.
--Crash (1996): Torture of the body for pleasure.
--eXistenZ (1999): Virtual mind games.

After eXistenZ Cronenberg started examining deep within the human psyche.

Spider (2002) was about a fragmented mind. A History of Violence examined the darkness that exists within the human soul. But the two sex scenes in A History of Violence examined the physical body -- the first is a tender scene where the body is acceptable to love whereas the second scene is of a violent animal instinct which renders the female body (Maria Bello's character) lifeless.

While I await Eastern Promises, here are two earlier films:

Videodrome: Rating 8.5/10

"Long live the new flesh".
I often wondered what attracted Cronenberg to direct Crash. As it turns out, the answer is apparent during the first 30 minutes of Videodrome. Max's (James Woods) girlfriend (Nikki) finds pleasure in the body's torture -- she wants Max to mutilate her. Even though Nikki's requests involved a needle, it is easy to see how that idea can be extrapolated to car crashes.

Nikki's ideas are fueled by the images that Renn has seen on tv regarding a show (Videodrome) which tortures people. But videodrome is not just another television show. This is where Renn's reality starts to dissolve and his hallucinations start to open up to a new world. While there are problems with how the story meshes reality and hallucinations together, the film was a few decades ahead of its time. It is refreshing to watch this story in 2007 and see how accurately the movie predicated some of the elements regarding reality tv shows, psychic driving and mind control. And the film also lays the path for Cronenberg's 1999 film, eXistenZ, a film which questioned traditional reality.

Dead Ringers: Rating 9.5/10

A chilling and engaging film about twin brothers who are emotionally bound together. Jeremy Irons plays Beverly & Elliot Mantle, two brilliant brothers who have revolutionized the field of gynecology. The two have completely separate personalities with Elliot being a womanizer and Beverly being an introvert. Beverly is the genius while Elliot takes all the credit. But despite their differences, the two can't live without each other.

Jeremy Irons has given such an amazing performance in this film! Very early on, you can tell the twins apart because Irons' perfect expressions enable us to identify which twin is Beverly and which is Elliot. And even if one brother is pretending to be the other in the film, we can easily pick it out because of Irons's. A lot of work has gone into the technical details of the movie to ensure the editing is smooth regarding all the scenes with the twins.


Michael Guillen said...

Thanks for your kind words, Sachin. I've added you to my blogroll. Your posts on Brazilian cinema are fantastic!

Sachin said...

Thanks for the link and your comments Michael :)

Your Eastern Promises review/observations really kicked me into thinking about Cronenberg away from the traditional 'horror' motif.