Written and directed by David Cronenberg, Crimes of the Future is the story of a performance artist and his partner who stage a show in removing live organs during a climate-ravaged future where an investigator takes notice to see how the show would play a role in human evolution. The film, which bears the same name as Cronenberg’s 1970 sophomore feature film, marks a return to body horror where Cronenberg explore humanity’s fascination with their own body parts in which a couple creates a performance involving body parts. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Don McKellar, Scott Speedman, and Kristen Stewart. Crimes of the Future is an entrancing and unsettling film from David Cronenberg.
Set in a futuristic, climate-ravaged world, the film revolves around a performance artist and his surgeon collaborator/lover as they stage shows to showcase the evolution of internal organs as they’re asked to take part in a project involving an autopsy with political and social implications. It’s a film that explore an underground subculture as people go to these shows to see people embrace inner beauty in a literal sense as well as see a growing evolution into the human anatomy. David Cronenberg’s screenplay definitely play into a future where food resources are becoming scarce while the human body begins to evolve as some can eat normally but others have to eat different things. Pain is something that no longer exists as Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) sleeps on a special bed to check on his organs while eats on a chair that is mechanical as he struggles to feed himself sometimes. His lover/collaborator Caprice (Lea Seydoux) is a former surgeon who helps in the performances by cutting aspects of his body and narrating it as it attracts the attention of a couple of investigators for the National Organ Registry in Timlin (Kristen Stewart) and Wippet (Don McKellar).
Timlin and Wippet are fascinated by Tenser’s show with the former wanting to get closer to Tenser while the latter is hoping to have Tenser be part of something bigger as it relates to the government. Yet, there is another person interested in the work that Tenser and Caprice are doing in an underground cult leader in Lang Doctrice (Scott Speedman) who wants them to perform an autopsy on his son who had been killed by his ex-wife Djuna (Lihi Koronowski). It all play into Doctrice’s fascination with human evolution as he wants to use Tenser’s profile to display a message though Tenser is unsure as he would have secret meetings with a detective named Cope (Welket Bungue) about what is going as Cope is investigating what Wippet is doing.
Cronenberg’s direction definitely bear elements that he is known for from past films that relate to the world of body horror yet it is presented in a more grounded idea of reality based on a world ravaged by climate change and physical evolution within the body. Shot on location in areas near Athens, Greece as this world that is seemingly in ruins as much of the film is shot in abandoned buildings. Cronenberg would use some unique wide shots to establish these locations that would include abandoned boats on the shore and buildings where many events occur as he would use wide and medium shots to get a scope into what people are witnessing. Notably as Cronenberg would create these shots that gaze into the activities that Tenser would do in public with Caprice at his side such as the images of him pulling an organ and revealing something. The world of body-horror would include a man filled with ears around his head, arms, and torso as he does a dance while a beautiful woman would get scars on her forehead and such to express her own ideas of pain.
Cronenberg would also emphasize on this idea of evolution as it relates to the fact that food resources become scarce as those with unusual evolution in their bodies are forced to eat something else as they struggle to eat with the machines they use. The film does open with a young boy sitting on a rock at the beach as he would later eat a plastic wastebasket as it would play into the underground subculture that Doctrice is involved in. There are also some close-ups that Cronenberg play into as it also play into the body mutilation that Tenser and Caprice would involve themselves in with people cutting themselves for sexual or personal pleasure with some trying to get that feeling of pain again. The film’s climax does involve this big event but also play into this idea of evolution where a lot is on the line as well yet there is also something personal from those involved. Even as it play into the need of trying to find meaning through this internal evolution in the body and soul. Overall, Cronenberg crafts an eerie and disturbing film about humanity’s obsession with inner beauty and its evolution.
Cinematographer Douglas Koch does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lighting for many of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes as well as using natural lighting for some of the daytime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Christopher Donaldson does excellent work with the editing as it does have bits of style yet it manages to let shots linger on to play into the horror and suspense. Production designer Carol Spier, with set decorator Dimitra Sourlantzi plus art directors Dimitris Katsikis and Kimberley Zaharko, does incredible work with the art direction from the design of the beds, chairs, and chambers Tenser uses for his show and at his home as well as objects that are used for the shows. Costume designer Mayou Trikerioti does fantastic work with the clothes that some of the characters wear such as the black robe that Tenser often wear as well as some casual-looking clothes that the other characters wear except for some stylish work in some of the performance shows.
Prosthetics special makeup effects designers Alexandra Anger and Monica Pavez do amazing work with the design in some of the prosthetics and make-up design in how some of the performance artists present themselves as it is a highlight of the film. Special effects supervisor George Alahouzos and visual effects supervisor Peter McAuley do terrific work in making sure some of body parts look real in some bits as well as in the movement in some of the arms in Tenser’s machine. Sound designers Rob Bertola and Tom Bjelic, with sound editor Jill Purdy, do superb work with the sound in the way some of the machines sound as well as some sparse moments that help play into the drama and suspense. The film’s music by Howard Shore is phenomenal for its haunting electronic-based score that is driven mainly by synthesizers to play into the suspense and horror as well as creating some original electronic pieces for some of the performance art pieces.
The casting by Deidre Bowen and Stavros Raptis is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Sozos Sotiris as Doctrice’s son Brecken, Ephie Kantza as a curator who gives Tenser a card that relates to Doctrice, Tassos Karahalios as the performance artist Klinek whose body is filled with ears, Denise Capezza as a performer who has scars all over her body, Jason Bitter as Doctrice’s assistant, Lihi Kornowski as Dotrice’s bitter ex-wife Djuna, Tanaya Beatty and Nadia Litz in their respective roles as Berst and Dani as two women who work for the manufacturers of Tenser’s bed and objects who are big fans of his work, and Welket Bungue in a superb performance as a detective who asks Tenser to find out what Doctrice is up to while is becoming suspicious into the activities from both Wippet and Timlin. Scott Speedman is fantastic as Lang Doctrice as an underground cult leader who believes his dead son is key to a future as it relates to human evolution while also battling a government who wants to prevent all of this from happening.
Don McKellar is excellent as Wippet as an investigator for the National Organ Registry who is fascinated by what Tenser does as he wants him to be part of a pageant as well as be someone who can be the face for the government. Kristen Stewart is amazing as Timlin as an investigator for the National Organ Registry who is more fascinated with Tenser as a person as well as wanting to be his collaborator as she believes that surgery is the new sex. Lea Seydoux is incredible as Caprice as Tenser’s collaborator/lover who makes sure he’s well and also narrates the performances while lamenting over the project they’re about to embark on as well as wanting to be part of the culture that celebrates human evolution. Finally, there’s Viggo Mortensen in a phenomenal performance as Saul Tenser as a man who grows new organs in his body as he deals with his physical changes from the inside while also working with a detective in uncovering Doctrice’s activities where Mortensen brings a restrained approach to his performance.
Crimes of the Future is a phenomenal film from David Cronenberg that features great performances from Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, and Kristen Stewart. Along with its ensemble cast, study of human evolution and its search for meaning, eerie visuals, and a mesmerizing score by Howard Shore. The film is definitely Cronenberg not just returning to his roots but using the genre he helped create to study the idea of humanity and their need to feel in a troubled future. In the end, Crimes of the Future is a sensational film from David Cronenberg.
David Cronenberg Films: Stereo - Crimes of the Future (1970 film) - Shivers - Rabid - Fast Company - The Brood - Scanners - Videodrome - The Dead Zone - The Fly (1986 film) - Dead Ringers - Naked Lunch - M. Butterfly - Crash (1996 film) - eXistenZ- Spider - A History of Violence - Eastern Promises - A Dangerous Method - Cosmopolis - Maps to the Stars
The Auteurs #26: David Cronenberg: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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