Horror Review: Crimes of The Future (2022)
There will be spoilers….
I’ve only recently started to dive into the films of David Cronenberg. And even with very limited knowledge of his filmography, I can confidently say Crimes of The Future (2022) feels very…Cronenberg. In this edge-apocalypse world, people no longer feel pain. Surgery is the new sex, and some lucky folks can even grow new organs. Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux’s characters play a classic pair, Saul and Caprice respectively. Saul grows new organs in his body and Caprice uses modern (though also strangely dated looking) technology to remove them as “performance art.” These scenes call upon the classic imagery of operating theaters of yore, but with a sexed up and sleek makeover.
This film certainly stands alone, but the recurring themes from Cronenberg’s other works are so prominent in Crimes of the Future. The body horror of course, but also the obsession with technology and the obsession with the body. There are themes of self harm and murder and sex, but in a new way. Perhaps above all else, there are themes of desire. The desire to feel something, the desire for something new and the want to evolve and survive the bleak era the characters are living in. Which doesn’t feel too far removed from our own.
Every performance was spot on to me, but Mortensen stood out. I couldn't help thinking about how physically demanding his role was while watching Crimes of the Future. From his constant coughing, to the bizarre bodily moments in his eating chair. Though I will admit, my favorite part of the film was Kristen Stewart’s character. A delightfully charming and unhinged archivist named Timlin. Timlin represents the delightful balance of this film. Grotesque and thought provoking, but also hilarious at times. Even silly. Timlin, along with other reprieves of comedic relief make the organ removals and autopsies bearable.
There is also a political element to this film that rings true of our modern era. There are some who don’t want to allow this organ evolution, they see people who can grow new organs as “no longer human.” And others are actively updating their digestive systems to consume plastic instead of food. A wonderful way to help dispose of the world's trash. But the divide reminds me of some of the political issues we see today, especially in the United States. The right to make decisions about your own body and the right to define your own identity, and how that manifests physically in your form. Not to mention the extreme commentary on environmentalism in Cronenberg’s almost defunct world.
The art design of this film is fascinating. Call me crazy, but something about the materials of the surgery machine, beds and eating charis remind me of The Flintstones, the live action film from 1994. Even the controller Caprice uses to perform surgery looks like something out of Power Rangers. But it works. The outdated feel fits well in this strange society. A seaside city, the shores lined with rusting, beached oil tankers. Everyone is performing back alley surgery, just to feel something.
Cronenberg isn’t a filmmaker that will appeal to everyone. Crimes of The Future certainly isn’t a film that will appear to everyone (as was evident when audiences walked out of a screening of it at Cannes.)
But so far, I haven’t seen one of his films that completely turned me off. Even though my usual horror triggers include blood, incisions, cutting and needles I’ve somehow been able to watch each and every one with eyes wide open. The scenes of body horror are prominent and shocking, but something about them invites us in. Because they are so integral to the story, we want to see how they play out. Even if they are upsetting. The hardest moment in this film for me was the opening, when we see a mother smother her child to death. After that jolt, the open table surgeries lose some of their shock value.
Crimes of The Future is a film that I am excited to watch again. There was so much to absorb, I don’t assume that I picked up on it all. But I left the theater with positive feelings, excited to keep learning about the films of David Cronenberg.