Content Note: child death
Humanity is changing. As pain disappears, new mutations in the bodies appear. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux) are a performance artist duo and partners. Their art consists of Caprice surgically removing the new organs that Saul produces at random intervals. Timlin (Kristen Stewart) and Wippet (Don McKellar) work for a government registry that tries to catalogue the new organs that humankind develops in an effort to control the changes. They take an interest in Saul. Timlin especially is fascinated by him and his art. Meanwhile, Lang (Scott Speedman) leads a group that welcomes the changes in humanity and tries to recruit Saul and Caprice for their cause.
Crimes of the Future has interesting elements, but I couldn’t really get into it. Its contemplative pace bored me and I just didn’t find it all that thought-provoking or provocative.
The most interesting part about the film for me were the biomechanical creations of it – the bed, the chair, the operating table. Their design was interesting and creative, very fitting for the world that Cronenberg conjures up. But the body horror element of the film left me pretty cold, and that is a problem when the film builds on it so much (ironically, there is one scene where another performance artist dances that I found honestly engaging – and that performance gets criticized as empty and meaningless in the film).
I just think that body modification is such a horror as the film seems to think. And neither is evolution or mutation such a terrifying prospect for me. Both are already part of our everyday life. We all know somebody who has had their body modified in some way, possibly surgically. I myself have sported piercings in the past and have several tattoos. Cosmetic surgery is everywhere. It might be a tamer form of body modification than what we get shown in the film, but the principle is the same: as our abilities to manipulate our bodies increase, so do our manipulations. That is not scary per se. And of course that can be sexy, why shouldn’t it? In the film, I constantly got the feeling that it expected me to gasp in horror but I was never really sure at what, exactly.
Cronenberg takes his time to explore his world, but without that element of shock this exploration felt just slow and boring. By the time we arrive at something of a plot, I had pretty much checked out of the film and even dozed off a little.
The performances, especially of Seydoux, Mortensen and Stewart, are fantastic, and there is certainly weirdness to revel in in the film. But it just didn’t capture me the way I would have hoped – and I probably set out to do. It left me with the reaction I would have expected the least from a Cronenberg movie: a simple shrug.