After more than two decades, legendary Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg has returned to SF and horror, more specifically body horror, a subgenre that not only made him famous in the 70s and 80s, but he was one of the pioneers of body horror. For Cronenberg, the 2000s brought a departure from what he had shot before, and after three rather weak films of the last decade (Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis, Map to the Stars), I assumed this genius had his say. But “Crimes of the Future” marks not only his return to form, but also a return to topics that interested him 35, 40 years ago. These are the transformation of the body, (de) evolution, the way in which technology and science affect man, and the thinking in which direction humanity is heading.
Cronenberg placed the essence of this reflection in “Crimes of the Future”, a dystopian combination of SF, body horror and drama whose plot is set in a future in which due to pollution and climate change there has been great progress in biotechnology. Machines were invented that could directly control the functions of human organs, and humans themselves began to change in relation to the homo sapiens as we know them today. Among these changes are the disappearance of physical pain and infectious diseases, which has led to not only human bodies starting to change, but it has become completely normal for all surgeons to perform operations on the streets that have a completely different function from what we mean by surgery today. and surgery.
Surgery has become a branch of art in this dystopian world, and the most famous modern artists are Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux). Their performance consists of public operations in front of an audience in which the fact that Tenser suffers from something called “accelerated evolution syndrome” is used, ie his body is constantly creating some new organs that are supposed to have no function. Thus, in front of many curious people, photographers, cameras and journalists, Tenser and Caprice perform these morbid performances, but they are not the only ones who deal with this branch of art.
In fact, already in the introductory scene, or rather the prologue, we realize that the world changes completely when a woman kills her little son because he feeds on plastic and the boy’s body from revenge the mother leaves to his father or her ex-husband Langu Dotrice (Scott Speedman). Both Lang and his son’s body will later play an essential role because that boy should be proof that humanity has gone in a new evolutionary direction, and a new police department called New Vice will do anything to stop the development of evolution in an unwanted direction. There are also bureaucrats from something called the National Register of Organs whose task is also to try to stop the continuation of evolution by cataloging and preserving all the new-organs that arise in humans. Young clerk Timlin (Kristen Stewart) does not hide her enthusiasm for Tensor and his organic-artistic achievements and at one point tells him that surgery is new sex.
It is this phrase that is the tagline of this eroticized dystopian SF horror drama, because really here it is as if human surgery and organ tattooing have replaced good, old sex. Although it was announced before the film came out that “Crimes of the Future” would be so shocking that people would run away from cinemas, it was just a good marketing ploy because this film seems much more modest to me than Cronenberg’s peak of morbidity, “Crasha.” Since it is clear what this is about and what people are dealing with here, of course there are a lot of scenes that are not very pleasant to watch and there are a lot of these morbid, disturbing and frightening operational performances.
It is interesting that Cronenberg made a film with the same name at the beginning of his career, ie in 1970, but apart from the name, nothing else connects these two films. Cronenberg has always been fascinating to me because he thought fantastically about the world and his films of the 70s and 80s were only seemingly creepy horrors full of blood, but they were deeply subversive and smart films and through SF or horror he thought about where this world is going. The same is the case with “Crimes of the Future”. It is a film that offers a lot of room for reflection and beneath a somewhat annoying, morbid and eerie surface, there is actually an existentialist, provocative drama about the direction in which humanity is heading.
Of course, what Cronenberg is contemplating here is a dystopia that, I deeply believe, will never happen, but aren’t we witnessing the world becoming more and more extreme. Cronenberg seems to be asking what if we are just living in a time when humanity has passed the peak of evolution and what follows now is not only the beginning of deevolution, but also something that will lead to the degradation of humanity as we know it. “Crimes of the Future” is also an interesting reflection on the world of today’s modern art and what can be pushed inside, so no one should be surprised that such morbid performances really become art in a few years.
Cronenberg managed to achieve a stunning impression of that degrading, creepy, post-apocalyptic world that practically doesn’t look like today at all, and Athens where the film was shot served as a great backdrop. Everything here is rusty, gray, rotten, almost like in “Stalker”, so people don’t act like people here either. Great work was done by cameraman Douglas Koch who, somewhat surprisingly, managed to eroticize that grotesque world in which people rely on bizarre machines. Of course, all those creepy machines, grotesque machines and the whole production design, which at times resembles Alien, for which Cronenberg’s permanent collaborator Carol Spier was in charge, are great.
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