Enthusiastic about surgery in Cronenberg’s latest body horror: ‘We move to a world without emotion’

David Cronenberg is back. The 79-year-old Canadian director has made a film for the first time in eight years. Meanwhile, he wrote the novel consumed and tried in vain to get a series for Netflix up and running. For his new film The crimes of the future he dusted off a manuscript he wrote twenty years ago.

In the future of The crimes of the future evolution has run amok. Mankind has gradually become accustomed to the extremely polluted nature. Some learn to feed on plastic. People’s pain threshold is completely blurred. Couples work with each other with knives and other sharp objects for an erotic release. “Surgery is the new gender,” they say. The ‘old sex’ does not bother people much anymore. Shady government organizations are trying to stem the chaos in the world.

Artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is constantly developing new, as yet unknown organs in his body. He has transformed his condition into a profession with performances in which the trauma surgeon Caprice (Léa Seydoux) removes his organs in front of an eager audience. This starting point gives the director of such a bizarre as it is bizarre opportunity to reflect on his own artistry in the fall of his career with philosophical questions such as: “Can a tumor be a work of art?”

When I wrote the script, no one was talking about microplastics in the human body

Cronenberg made previous films such as crash (2004), which dealt with the erotic appeal of car accidents and videodrome (1983), where a videotape is played in a stomach. At the Cannes Film Festival dong Cronenberg with The crimes of the future participated in the competition, but he went home without a prize. During the festival, he spoke casually with the press.

Cronenberg: “I do not know if I had foresight twenty years ago. I like to leave that to others. But when I wrote the script, there was still no one talking about microplastic particles in the human body. Today, a new variant is being discovered in the human circuit almost every day. All forms of surgery have now become much more accepted and almost common. ”

Evolution has run amok in your movie.

“What you see in the film is simply how evolution works. It does not work towards an ideal; people do not get better and more beautiful. Evolution has nothing to do with it. It ensures that humans have the best chance of surviving in an ever-changing environment. It can also mean that people actually become more and more cruel and destructive.

“Evolution continues to work, even in humans. At the moment, it has been shown that humans can survive with microplastics in the bloodstream. It’s a huge surprise. You would expect something like this to be fatal or at least cause serious disease. The human body is constantly adapting to the new living environment. “

So the plastic eaters in your movie are right?

“The plastic eaters are right. Maybe they are your neighbors. ”

Where did the idea of ​​’surgery as the new sex’ come from? It’s still quite unusual.

“I’m not entirely sure where it’s coming from, except it’s a logical continuation of my interest in both erotica and surgery. Of course, such sex can only happen when the world is as far as it is in the movie: when people no longer feel pain and are immune to infection. In the film, such an operation is not even a form of sadomasochism because people no longer feel any pain at all.

“I think our current society has gone too far in suppressing emotions, with or without the help of all kinds of drugs. People take opiates because they do not want to feel anything anymore. It is true that they have some kind of pleasure. by doing so, but it is a very strange form of pleasure.People go through life dull and numb.They have to resort to more and more extreme means to still feel something.It can lead to a possible future which it can be seen in the film. ”

Also read the review: Surgery is the new gender in Cronenberg’s ‘Crimes of the Future’

You also put forward a philosophy of what art is in the film.

‘It has emerged very organically. I never started writing with that intention. But as soon as one takes an extreme performance artist as the protagonist of a film, such questions arise. What is art? Is performance art real art? It comes entirely from the character. It’s not like I’m walking around with a weighty message about telling the world what art is. For myself, I have never felt the urge to define what art is.

“A performance artist makes art from his own body. Such a one gives everything of himself to be able to make art. That’s basically what artists always do. A serious artist must have that dedication. Therefore, it is obvious to me that performance art is really art. Then, of course, one can distinguish between good and bad art. But it applies to any art form. “

Is the film also a kind of flashback to your own career and your own work?

“There’s something about it. Even though I wrote the film twenty years ago, I was no longer a young filmmaker myself at the time.”

‘Crimes of the Future’ has been described as essentially a sad film.

“That’s right. The film shows my struggle to stay positive. And my sadness that the world is in such a bad state. The characters live a life of silent despair. They are desperate, but they do not quite understand why they are desperate. “The social ties between people have been lost. This is especially evident from the surroundings: dark colors, empty streets, dilapidated houses.”

Are you pessimistic about the future?

“I’m trying to live in the present. I would have a huge problem if I was constantly so worried about the future of the planet that I could not enjoy the present. I think we’re destroying the planet right now. Whether it can be reversed must show sig.

“Still, I disagree with people who are so worried about the future of the planet that they do not want children. I have three children and four grandchildren. Children are the most wonderful thing there is. One can hardly understand what a human being is, if you have not raised children. They show you how wonderful and complex people are. It would be a shame if humanity were to die out, because no one wants children anymore. By the way, it could happen very quickly. It only needs to take one generation.”

five times that own body as art:

Pistol by Joanne Meester. Photo ANP

Joanne Meester

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam artist Joanneke Meester caused quite a stir in 2007 when she exhibited a pistol made of her own skin. With the six-by-three-centimeter gemstone, she wanted to express her ‘concern over the rising violence in society’. Under local anesthesia, a friend of the surgeon removed an eight-inch strip of epidermis from the Master’s abdomen. She covered plastic rods with it.

Gina Pane

Like Burden, the French Gina Pane (1939-1992) was an early icon of body art. Between 1969 and 1980, she performed ritual performances in which she used her body as a material in an extreme way. She was injured by nailing her arms or cutting herself in the eyes or lips with a razor. Artist Marina Abramovic is a great admirer of her work (and of Burdens) and has Pane’s achievement Auto portraits staged again in 2005 at the Guggenheim Museum. Before this she lay like Pane in 1973 like a saint on an iron bed, under which two rows of candles burned until the heat became unbearable.

orlan. Photo ANP / EPA


Between 1990 and 1993, the French artist Orlan (1947) manipulated his own face using plastic surgery, so that it began to look like famous paintings. During live performances, for example, she had ‘horns’ implanted just above her eyebrows. Her lips and cheekbones were also adapted to form after Da Vinci’s, i.a. Mona Lisa† During the operations, which were broadcast at various museums, Orlan was conscious and read to his audience.

Chris Burden

In the 1970s, American artist Chris Burden (1946-2015) pioneered the ‘body art’ movement with his extreme, life-threatening performances. His most famous work is the performance shoot, for which he was shot in the arm by a friend in 1971 with a .22 rifle. Laurie Anderson wrote a song about it: ‘It’s Not the Bullet That Kills You – It’s the Hole (for Chris Burden)’.

Other well-known works are trans fast (1974), which Burden himself had nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen Beetle in a crucifix position. For the life-threatening performance Prelude to 220 or 110 from 1971 he left it up to the public whether he would electrocute him or not. Burden died of cancer at the age of 69.

stelarc. Photo ANP / Polaris images


Australian performance artist Stelarc (1946) has pushed and ‘improved’ his body to the extreme by adapting it in every possible way with modern technology. In 2007, for example, he had a third ear transplanted on his forearm and extended his body with a third robot arm. By being hung up on meat hooks or being tortured by robots, the human body becomes a relentless toy of technology.

Leave a Comment