Elegant and grotesque, ‘Crimes of the Future’ reconciles the different phases of David Cronenberg’s cinema

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Now in theaters, this dystopian film marks the Canadian director’s return to horror and science fiction after more than two decades. Neon/Disclosure.

More curious than the emblematic bodily transformations of his films is the metamorphosis of David Cronenberg’s work through his 22 feature films. Known for mixing science fiction with body horror in works such as videodrome, The fly and Gemini: Morbid resemblancethe Canadian filmmaker has shown himself over the decades capable of approaching topics that are totally outside his initial curve – the frenzy for car accidents in Crash: Strange Pleasuresthe Russian mafia in crime lordspsychoanalysis in the early 20th century in a dangerous method and the absurdities of the celebrity world in map to the stars. Returning to horror after more than two decades with crimes of the futurenow showing, Cronenberg seems to reach a compromise between his idiosyncrasies as a genre director and the formal sobriety of his most recent works.

Set in a post-apocalyptic-looking future in which people don’t feel physical pain and start to grow new organs, the film follows a duo of performance artists (Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux) who make public presentations of surgeries and removals, gathering obsessed followers, as a mystery woman from the government agency records department (Kristen Stewart). The cuts and mutilations are literally transformed into pleasure and the plot gradually submerges the viewer into a dark underworld in which surgery has become the “new sex”, as one of the characters puts it.

crimes of the future has a universe full of rules that are never fully presented to the audience. Punctual expository dialogues establish relationships and clarify specificities of dystopia, while practical explanations of the formation of that world are at best implied. Old TV sets contrast with futuristic reality and more open elements of the art direction contribute to a visual anachronism that dominates the entire projection. After all, as in EXistenZCronenberg’s latest foray into science fiction, all the technology present here is organic, tactile, and often repulsive, like the controls that seem most amphibious.

Although famous for shocking scenes of mutation and violence, the filmmaker’s filmography has never dealt head-on with the discussion of the human body. Originally conceived about 20 years ago, but very connected to the current phase of its author, crimes of the future occasionally it functions as Cronenberg’s thesis film about his method and his main obsessions; the characters are constantly debating the meaning of bodies and, more importantly, performing for others (and the audience) the conceptual revelations of anomalies, seeking the beauty present in the most disturbing images.

It is remarkable how, just when dealing directly with what has always been his film project, Cronenberg throws all his excess baggage out the window to concentrate on what is essential in the staging, in the animalistic movements of some of the actors. and in the peculiar inflection of their dialogues. The containment of the usual shock gives way to small ritualized moments in which the crystalline resolution of the digital aesthetic exposes the texture of the flesh without filter or exaggeration. crimes of the future is a symbiosis of the dirty, lawless underworld atmosphere crash with the minimalism and stylistic elegance that marked the director’s career in the 21st century. The union of two such distinct and equally brilliant phases would hardly have any other result.

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