The Movie Waffler New to VOD - CRIMES OF THE FUTURE | The Movie Waffler


A performance artist is offered the chance to perform his most shocking act.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Léa Seydoux, Scott Speedman, Welket Bungué, Don McKellar, Lihi Kornowski, Tanaya Beatty

Crimes of the Future poster

It's incredible to think that an entire generation has grown to adulthood in the time since David Cronenberg last worked in the fields of sci-fi and horror. In the 20th century Cronenberg was always labelled a "horror director", lumped in with the likes of John Carpenter, Wes Craven and George A. Romero. This century has seen him deliver more grounded films like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence in what some cynics might view as a bid for mainstream acceptance, while his son Brandon has taken up the mantle of making exactly the sort of body-horror movies the family name had become synonymous with. With Crimes of the Future, Cronenberg returns to the world of body-horror with what might be the most Cronenbergian movie ever.

Crimes of the Future review

"Long live the new flesh," was the slogan of the militant group from Cronenberg's 1983 thriller Videodrome. Crimes of the Future shares only its name with the director's 1970 film, but it does share some thematic elements with Videodrome and offers a similar catchphrase – "Surgery is the new sex." Like Videodrome's Max Renn, Crimes of the Future's protagonist, Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), is in the business of shocking audiences. The film is set at some point in a future where most humans have evolved to no longer feel physical pain. Others have evolved differently. Tenser can feel pain, so much so that basic functions like sleeping and eating require the use of special software-enhanced beds and chairs to compensate for his aches and pains. But Tenser has another gift, the ability to generate tumours. With his stage and romantic partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Tenser is a performance artist whose act sees former surgeon Caprice remove his tumours live on stage with the age of an outdated autopsy machine, a device not too dissimilar from the one Noomi Rapace used to perform an impromptu abortion in Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

Tenser's act is beginning to grow a little stale, and he's up against more outrageous performers, like Klinek (Tassos Karahalios), who can grow ears all over his body. When he's approached by the shifty Lang (Scott Speedman), he may have an act that will put him back on the map. Lang's son was murdered by his mother because she considered him a freak due to his ability to eat plastic. Lang has kept the body hidden away and wishes Tenser to perform an autopsy on the boy so that his unique digestive system will be exposed to the world, rather than being covered up by the authorities, who are dead set against the idea of humans evolving in what they consider an unnatural manner.

Crimes of the Future review

Like Videodrome, Crimes of the Future examines the lengths artists and entertainers will go to in order to satisfy an increasingly demanding audience. Both movies seem to take a pop at the sort of people who watch Cronenberg movies, as though the filmmaker is disgusted by our desires but can't help but continue to feed them. Tenser literally opens up his body and gives us part of himself, but it's not enough. What more can an artist give?

Cronenberg first wrote his script over 20 years ago, but you can see why he returned to it as its themes will likely resonate a lot more with a 2022 audience than one from two decades ago. The issue of evolution here, with the government requiring any new organs to be registered so they can be kept track of, plays like an explicit allegory for the current debate around trans rights and the conflict that arises when someone's right to determine what they do with their own body clashes with the established rules of existing institutions.

Crimes of the Future review

Cronenberg doesn't appear to take any particular side, nor does he offer any easy answers. Instead he creates a world that is strangely tangible despite its more fantastical elements, largely because we're seeing similar issues play out in our own world. With committed performances across the board and effectively atmospheric use of a largely deserted nocturnal Athens, the film immerses us in what feels like a very well thought out near future society. Some elements are left obtuse and may require further viewings to fully grasp, but we always feel we're in the hands of a filmmaker confidently presenting ideas that he's been refining for close to 50 years now. The old flesh is new again. Long may it live.

Crimes of the Future
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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