David Cronenberg offers a unique vision of the future in his latest film, Crimes of the Future (no relation to the 1970 feature of his name, except for the strange things done to the human body). Even by Cronenberg’s standards, “Crimes of the Future” is a peculiar film. There’s a lot of gore in the film with disturbing scenes like a severed open abdominal limb, a skull scraping a bone in a leg, a head being drilled – and it’s all very disturbing – but there’s a thematic depth here. It is ‘Crimes of the Future’ that keeps the film engaging even during the most disturbing sections.
Unknown years in the future, climate change, about which scientists have been warning us for decades, has struck in full force and spoiled not only vegetation and ecology, but also the human body. Many people need the help of machines and computers to perform basic tasks like eating breakfast and getting good sleep. However, the ability to feel pain has disappeared, and surgery can now be performed without anaesthetics. This has enabled the advent of a new kind of performing arts. This includes artists who amputate their bodies, such as having their eyes sewn, which is rare nowadays but has become the norm in the ‘Crimes of the Future’.
Saul Tensor (Vigo Mortensen) and Caprice (Lee Seydoux) are such performance artists. In his case, this means that Saul uses his rare condition called “accelerated growth syndrome,” which keeps growing organs inside his body that may or may not be tumors. The performance includes Caprice, a lapsed surgeon, who cuts off Saul’s stomach and dramatically pulls it out as the audience watches with excitement. They refer to each other as just mates, but they stay together and their relationship is accused of sexuality. In a scene, both of them lie down together after cutting different parts of each other’s body. Post sex glow is visible on their face. As one character puts it, surgery is the new gender.
“Crimes of the Future” also doesn’t have much plot and character, and if that’s what you look for in a movie, it’s definitely not for you. If you’ve seen Cronenberg movies before, especially those early in his career, this movie is like a return to that sanity. But even more so than those films by the director, the film is less interested in events than in reflections on some challenging ideas. It is more of a sensory experience than anything else. A collection of philosophical music by a filmmaker returning to the genre he kicked off and in turn made him so successful.
Cinematography (by Douglas Koch) and production design (by Carol Speer) paint a bleak world with muted colors like dun brown and ocher and even the machines don’t spic and span metallic things , but it seems as if the fossil was made of bone. It’s not the future most of us want to live in, but from afar, it somehow sounds appealing.
Despite the gore and scenes of sexual practices that we’d call deviating from the year 2022 (you never know what we might accept in the future), “Crimes of the Future” is often a surprising film. a masterpiece.