David Cronenberg explains the overarching metaphor behind his latest body horror film Crimes of the Future starring Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux.
Director David Cronenberg has been offered an explanation as to what his new film Crimes of the Future is about. Since the beginning of his career, Cronenberg’s name has been more or less synonymous with body horror. The Canadian filmmaker has long been interested in disease and the terrifying things that can happen to human flesh, an idea that he has explored in projects like the notorious head-exploding cult classic scanners and the 1986 sci-fi remake The Fly, which stars Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who begins slowly transforming into a grotesque fly-human hybrid. Despite this evident passion for the subject, his recent output from him has seen the director turn away from horror toward more straightforward dramas like the 2014 satirical drama Maps to the Stars.
Crimes of the FutureIt’s plot description certainly makes it sound like a return to form for the director. The film, which came to theaters on June 3, follows a couple who are both performance artists: Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux). Their performance, which is made possible by the disease Accelerated Evolution Syndrome, involves them growing new organs onstage before removing them and putting them on display. This syndrome is a reaction to an increasingly synthetic world following climate catastrophe. The rest of the cast of the film includes Don McKellar, Scott Speedman, Welket Bungué, Lihi Kornowski, and Oscar nominee Kristen Stewart.
While speaking with VarietyCronenberg attempted to explain the meaning behind Crimes of the Future. He explains that Tenser’s unusual performance style is a metaphor for the artist “giving what is the deepest, most intimate part of himself hidden inside.” However, the circumstances that allow him to do this reflect Cornenberg’s own feelings about the way that “the use of digital technology has actually altered our nervous systems.” Read his full quote below:
Tenser is really an avatar, a template or model of the artist who is actually giving everything he could give, opening himself up and giving what is the deepest, most intimate part of himself hidden inside. He’s offering it up to his audience and therefore being incredibly vulnerable to ridicule, to rejection, to misunderstanding, to anger. And to me, that is the model of a true passionate artist.
I think we are evolving, not devolving. I think our nervous systems are completely different from human beings 100 years ago. I think the use of screens, the use of digital technology has actually altered our nervous systems.
This fear of the impact of technological advancement on the human body is part and parcel with Cronenberg’s ethos as a director. He has been exploring this idea for many years, including in his memorable 1983 work videodrome, in which the lead character inserts a VHS into his own stomach. Technology has progressed so much father since that point, as reflected in his 1999 film eXistenZwhich sees a video game designer crossing the dotted line between virtual reality and actual reality.
Crimes of the Future is clearly his attempt at bridging the gap between the Cronenberg of then and the Cronenberg of now. He has not documented his thoughts on humanity’s relationship with technology in a horror-related project since the early 2000’s. With the way the world and the tech within it has moved forward in leaps and bounds, this is certain to provide a supercharged level of grotesquerie to the new film.
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