Unusual bodies as an ode to art

In ‘Crimes of the Future’, the new film by Canadian director David Cronenberg, new organs grow in some people’s bodies. Bizarre but irresistible cinema.

If you’re familiar with Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg’s oeuvre, you know he has a special human vision. He is particularly fascinated by the interplay between our physical and mental side, how one has an unmistakable and inextricable influence on the other.

The essence

  • Crimes of the Future is the new film from Canadian director David Cronenberg. He competes in Cannes for the Golden Palm.
  • It is a futuristic story about a performance artist, in whose body new organs emerge. He performs surgical procedures on himself.
  • Through his remarkable images, Cronenberg tells us something about our relationship to our body and the role of art in making reality edible.

In recent years, his work (‘A History of Violence’, ‘A Dangerous Method’) has focused on the spiritual and social aspects. Early in his career, he put more emphasis on the physical side. So much so that his cinema was called ‘body horror’, because in films like ‘Videodrome’, ‘Scanners’ and ‘The Fly’ he did not shy away from portraying physical decay and horror.

With his 79 years, Cronenberg believes the time has come to return to his old hunting grounds. He wrote the script for his new film ‘The Crimes of the Future’ 20 years ago, but the story, in his own words, has not lost any of its relevance. The central character, Saul Tenser (played by Cronenberg’s favorite and close friend Viggo Mortensen), is a performance artist with exceptional talent: unusual organs and hormones develop in his body.

His action consists of removing it surgically with the help of his regular partner Caprice (played by Léa Seydoux) and a complex machine. Their performance is semi-illegal because the government wants to curb the uncontrolled spread of bizarre body parts.

The point of view of the disease

‘The Crimes of the Future’ is Fressen’s foundation for any lover of Cronenberg’s unique imagination, which he pours into a satirical form to an even greater degree than before. The film opens with a heartbreaking scene in which a mother acts desperately because she no longer recognizes her own child. But afterwards, Cronenberg mainly shows his clinical fantasies and biomechanical designs in a dry, playful way.



‘Crimes of the future’ invites us to throw away our prejudices and look at reality from a different perspective. Just what art is for something.

It is all the more remarkable when one realizes that the filmmaker himself no doubt has more and more physical ailments and nuisances. If the protagonist has to get into a stranger’s bed or sit in a special chair to eat – still with great difficulty – it also seems autobiographical in all its extravagance.

Lea Seydoux and David Cronenberg.
© AFP

However, Cronenberg has never seen aging and physical change as negative. He always says that he tells stories from the point of view of the disease. It is no different in ‘Crimes of the Future’. He does not reveal what it is like for people to suddenly develop new organs – the film subtly suggests an ecological disaster.

What matters to him is that this development does not necessarily have to be catastrophic or disgusting. It is no coincidence that there are echoes of ‘Crash’ in the film, a scandal at the Cannes Film Festival a quarter of a century ago. Just like then, Cronenberg explores the unexpected erotic possibilities that Nieuwe Vlees offers. Or as Kirsten Stewart puts it in the movie: ‘Surgery is sex. She has replaced sex. ‘

The power of art

‘Crimes of the Future’ is most of all a recognition of the healing and enlightening power of art. Mortensen’s character calls himself “an artist of the inner landscape.” He uses his creative talents to transform a truth that many others find frightening to the extent that he cultivates the new organs with his will. It is body art of the deepest kind.

Cronenberg understands all too well that he does not make everyday cinema. But like his main character in ‘Crimes of the Future’, he invites us to throw away our preconceptions and see reality with different eyes. Just what art is for something. On Saturday, we will be told if the jury at the Cannes festival agrees with him.

‘Crimes of the Future’ hits theaters today.

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