CRIMES OF THE FUTURE – Review by Susan Granger
Do you remember how controversial Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg fetishized and eroticized automobile collisions in Crash (1998)? One year later, Cronenberg wrote the original script for Crimes of the Future, just released in theaters. Perhaps it was supposed to be a companion piece.
This time, Cronenberg introduces avant-garde performance artists sometime in the dystopian future when humans have lost the ability to feel physical pain. Perhaps because people eat and metabolize plastic, the human body has evolved, unpredictably growing invasive, nonfunctional organs. It’s called Accelerated Evolution Syndrome.
Working together, Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner/lover Caprice (Lea Seydoux) have developed a popular gimmick that involves her surgically excising an excess organ from his black-hooded body lying in a high-tech bed called a Sark module as the rapt audience snaps photographs.
They’re spotted by representatives of the shadowy, sinister National Organ Registry: Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristin Stewart), who burbles: “Surgery is the new sex.”
Then there are sycophantic technicians Berst (Tanaya Beatty) and Router (Nadia Litz), working for the company responsible for the remote-control equipment that Saul & Caprice use.
Meanwhile, Brecken (Sozos Sotiris), an eight-year old boy (whom we’ve seen munching plastic in the prologue) is smothered by his mother. His father (Scott Speedman) begs Saul and Caprice to use the child’s body in their act and reveal the truth about his death via an on-stage autopsy.
As nosy Detective Cope (Welket Bungue) lurks nearby, this subplot reveals an environmental warning that becomes increasingly relevant.
If gruesome, disgusting imagery appeals to you, warped Cronenberg offers a bizarrely graphic buffet of body horror, including stomachs sliced & diced and eyes/mouths being sewn shut.
After making EXistenZ, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, among others, this is David Cronenberg’s first feature in eight years. Yet back in 1970, he made another experimental film, also called Crimes of the Future, in which patients at a skin clinic used a dangerous cosmetic.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Crimes of the Future is an extreme, stomach-churning 3, definitely not for the squeamish.