David Cronenberg is dangerous.
Cronenberg is dangerous. As far as directors
go, none have come quite as close to achieving their own brand of cinema in the
way that Cronenberg has. Later this month his new film Cosmopolis (Main Picture) will be released. Adapted from the novel by cult author Don Delillo, Cosmopolis is the first
Delillo novel to be made into a film. It also marks the first appearance of one
Robert Pattinson in a Cronenberg
feature. Pattinson recently stated that he wanted to break away from his ‘teen
movie icon’ image. Well R-Patz couldn’t have chosen a better director to break
that spell than Cronenberg.
Since the 1970’s Cronenberg has been
making films that defy description. Mainly known as a horror director, his work
often touches on drama, crime and the surreal. No matter the genre, though, his
films always maintain the same themes: fear, identity, transformation, reality
and sex. These are ripe within his films but are done with such
originality that, as a viewer you feel like you are exploring a whole new
sensation. By using fake rubbery bodies and some shocking images Cronenberg
managed to achieve a style distinctly his own during the 70’s and 80’s. Take,
for instance, the slug like sexual parasite climbing into an unsuspecting woman
in a bath from Shivers. Or the
infamous exploding head scene from Scanners.
Not only were these intended to shock but, like any good horror film, they
challenged the audience in new and exciting ways.
The use of special effects and the
exploration of ‘body horror’ has became Cronenberg’s signature – and was deftly
exploited in the 1983 movie, Videodrome which
was a landmark film for the director.
Videodrome follows television executive
Max Renn (James Woods) who is slowly
dragged into the seedy and perverse world of extreme television. There are many
interpretations as to what Videodrome is exactly about. The movie covers all of
Cronenberg’s usual themes, but what it seems to be saying is: What if
censorship is right? What if television and films can corrupt us and turn us
into out of control monsters? As the film progresses, Renn’s body begins to
transform in horrific fashion. First a VCR type slot opens up in his abdomen,
then a type of fleshy gun is moulded to his hand. Rather than fight it, he
decides to embrace it and, as he does, he begins to understand it. ‘Long live
the new flesh’ became the quote that would represent Cronenberg’s work for
years to come.
From Videodrome on, Cronenberg would go
on to create some incredible films. The
Fly, apart from being a fantastic horror film was also an amazingly
portrayal of the fragility of life with some Shakespearian-like dialogue. Dead Ringers showed us how sex and
jealously can be used to manipulate one another. Crash, a film banned in Westminster, explored our unhealthy
obsession with vehicles and the desires they portray. The remarkable take on William S. Burroughs bewildering Naked Lunch was not only a great
metaphorical interpretation of a novel but also of an enigmatic man. His
perceptions of reality and dreams in Spider
and eXistenZ can potentially
claim to be the influence behind films like The Matrix and Inception.
Throughout his career Cronenberg has challenged celluloid itself, asking what
can film achieve and how can subtext be used effectively.
As well as challenging authorities and
censors, Cronenberg’s ability to get the best out of actors may just be one of
his most overlooked accolades. James Woods’ paranoid and kinky Max Renn may be
the best performance of his entire career. For all his good work in Jurassic Park and Independence Day, Jeff Goldblum will never scale the heights that
he did during The Fly. Viggo Mortensen’s
career went from being ‘that bloke from Lord of the Rings‘ to being considered one of the best actors of
his generation thanks to A History of
Violence and Eastern Promises.
He even managed to get a bizarre and show stealing performance from Keira Knightly in A Dangerous Method. Perhaps the most outstanding performance in
Cronenberg’s filmography is by Jeremy
Irons in Dead Ringers. Irons plays two identical twins who are surgical
geniuses. Both are completely different in nearly every way but slowly they
begin to influence and damage each other’s lives. It’s an incredible piece of
acting, full of sadness and anger. The fact that the academy chose to overlook
it for the 1989 Oscars only further cemented its infamy. Irons would go on to
thank Cronenberg when he won the Oscar in 1991 for Reversal of Fortune. A student never forgets a good teacher.
So, with Cosmopolis just on the horizon
what can we expect from Cronenberg this time? Judging from the trailer
Cronenberg seems to be revisiting old territories. Lots of blood looks like it
will be spilled with an ample amount of sex piled on top. Also body
transformations look to have made a return. Photos have already emerged of
Pattinson sporting a Videodrome like slot in his abs. Cronenberg looks like he
may re-visit the same sort of metaphors that he used in Naked Lunch. If all of
this should transpire, it’s safe to assume that it will be one of the film
events of the year. If R-Patz wants to abandon his Twilight past, then Cronenberg will delete any memory of that in an
LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH.