HORROR; 1hr 47min
STARRING: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Black ops: Mortensen
This saturnine incarnation of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future isn’t to be confused with the writer-director’s 1970 movie of the same name — but what its distinctive beats are unlikely to ever be confused with is a body horror production by anyone else.
In an indeterminate, technologically juiced future where human pain has all but vanished, performance artist Saul Tenser (Mortensen) has a condition that causes him to grow new internal organs. Lest they be the death of him, his sultry assistant, Caprice (Seydoux), a former trauma surgeon, helpfully removes them onstage in a gross disembowelment that audiences are eating up. Also intrigued are Timlin (Stewart) and Wippet (Don McKellar) from the National Organ Registry’s New Vice Unit, with whom Tenser has registered images of his unwanted body parts. “Surgery is the new sex,” a worshipful Timlin breathes after witnessing the duo’s macabre show.
Unlike Caprice, to whom organ harvesting is “art from anarchy,” Tenser isn’t happy about any of this. Why would he be: judging by his tubercular look (nicely accessorised with a hangman’s hood) and a cough he can’t shake, the artist is already on his way out. But what, really, is there to live for in this infernal world? Contributing absolutely nothing to the ambience, a group of underground evolutionists have transformed their stomachs in order to consume plastics, a milestone that will culminate in a public autopsy by Caprice on an eight-year-old boy. Shudder.
The morbidly unhinged is Cronenberg’s happy place, “a map,” to quote Caprice at the debacle of the autopsy, “into the heart of darkness.” Layered with implication and spliced with visual shocks, his shadowland vibrates with a through-line of tension. But some hearts beat more slowly than others, and darkness is a shade removed from murk.