"...a fitting last film because it serves as a summation of his (Cronenberg's) career..."

Cronenberg's Final Horror Thrills

(061622) Crimes of the Future is a grotesque but thoughtful body horror/art film (there is also some noir elements thrown in) that depicts a dystopia in which human beings have descended to a new low.  It presents a society in which people enjoy surgery and body mutilation as an art form and as a replacement for sexual intercourse.

To many the subject may seem outlandish and unimaginable, but it merely exaggerates certain real-life trends in the body modification underground groups (The surgical horror film, American Mary deals with similar themes). I read of two identical twins that actually had their left arms switched in order to get closer. At the late lamented Gallery Provocateur, I spoke with and photographed a man who had his eyes permanently tattooed (I later read that some people who had the procedure done later went blind.) Body modification has already become just another leisure activity for some or an extension of self-definition for others.

Crimes of the Future was made by Canadian film maker, David Cronenberg who created arty horror films such as The Brood, The Fly, and Rabid as well as slightly more mainstream, yet still bizarre cult films with some horror/sci fi elements such as Dead Ringers, Spider, Naked Lunch and Existenz.  This is the first film that the 78-year-old has made in eight years. It circles back to some of the themes he started with in his first films that he moved away from with his more recent films such as
A History of Violence , A Dangerous Mind, and it would actually make a fitting last film because it serves as a summation of his career.

The film stars art film regulars Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, as well as the superstar, Kristen Stewart, and Don McKeller. Stewart of course was in the Twilight series as well as two terrific French films (Clouds of St Mils and Personal Shopper.)  Seydoux was a Bond girl but she also was recently in Bruno Dumont’s France, and Viggo was in the masterfully done Lord of the Rings films.

The film takes place in a future reality in which the human species is adapting to a sterile, human made environment by mutating and developing often frightening new organs and body parts. It seems like infection and disease is rare, and most of the pain people feel overlaps with pleasure. It also seems to take extreme methods (the same was true in Cronenberg’s Crash) to stimulate or arouse people.

It all begins with the shocking death of a young plastic eating man (he could be seen as symbol of a society like ours which is totally dependent on or “feeds on” plastic) is smothered to death at the hands of his mom which is explained later. The mysterious death ties into later developments in the story. The scene caused many walk outs and debates at Cannes about whether the aesthetic merit of the film is worth stomaching the gore and intense psychological violence.

The movie’s main characters are a pair of performance artists, Saul (Viggo) and Caprice (Lea Seydoux) who have a most shocking act. Saul suffers from “accelerated evolution syndrome,” so his body continually mutates and grows distasteful tumors and new internal organs. Sometimes they seem to be involuntary and other times he seems to control the growths. Using advanced technology his partner/lover/assistant, Caprice (Lea) surgically removes the new body parts in front of a live audience for entertainment.

Whenever Saul grows new organs, he (along with Caprice) must go to the National Organ Registry to report them. They meet an employee there, Timlin (played by Kristin Stewart) who seems to be fascinated or perhaps even infatuated with Saul. She later tracks the pairs’ movements and it turns out she is tied to a shadowy secret society with hidden motives.

Saul likes to sit in a chair like pod that looks like an organ and the bone like device moves around as he sits in it like a living creature.  It also seems to move as he eats and perhaps aids in some way in his food consumption. As he sits, his lovely partner, Caprice uses a machine which looks like a brain that directs autopsies that allow her to see the newest developments inside him. He seems to derive pleasure from the procedure and sees it as a form of intimacy.

Caprice and Saul are very close but they are not lovers in the normal or current sense but the very nature of physical intimacy has changed (as it may also change in real life).  At one point a character says that “surgery is the new sex” and Saul says that he’s “not very good at the old sex.”  Cronenberg of course seems fascinated with presenting troubling futuristic alternatives to sex and in Crash he presented people who achieved orgasm through crashing cars, and in Videodrome people had orgasmic experiences watching TV.

Eventually Saul and Caprice seem to move in different directions and there seems to be a chance they might break up. Saul wants to enter a beauty contest which will not require her services and hopes to win the award for “best original organ with no known function” which is considered a great honor.  Also, the father of the murdered boy wants Saul to perform autopsies on the boy that was killed by his mom in the opening.

Crimes of the Future is of course essential viewing for horror and Cronenberg aficionados, but audiences who prefer action to go with their sci-fi ideas and dystopian philosophy might want to give it a pass. It also seems that some of Cronenberg’s disciples (like Julia , the director of Titane) might have at least temporarily improved on the old master.

In the end while the movie is chock full of highly original ideas, what we see onscreen is often less impressive than the concepts behind it.  Although this was far from my favorite Cronenberg film, for me it was fairly stimulating and despite some slow parts and some few tepid performances in which the actors seem disconnected from the material (But this might be the way Cronenberg wanted it.)

Directed & Written  by:     David Cronenberg
Starring:    Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Released:    05/25/22 (USA)
Length:    107 minutes
Rating:    Rated R for strong disturbing violent content, grisly
 images, graphic  nudity and some language
Available On:     Currently playing at local theatres.

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

CRIMES OF THE FUTURE  © 2022 Serendipity Point Films
Review © 2022 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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