Crimes of the Future: Gross New World
Dir. David Cronenberg (2022)
When humans start to adapt to a synthetic environment by growing new organs, two performance artists who specialize in the theatrical removal of those organs find themselves in the dark underbelly of this brave new world.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
David Cronenberg is back after a nearly ten year hiatus to deliver what is perhaps his most disturbing (and most icky) film yet. In a “near future” world where humans have begun evolving at a quicker rate to overcome the dangers of the new technological world, Viggo Mortensen plays a performance artist who grows his own designer organs in his body and Lea Seydoux is his partner, a former surgeon who removes these organs in live shows as their art form. While this is bizarre enough, Cronenberg takes it a step further by discussing how this new form of “art” and genetics has become “the new sex,” meaning that surgery (and surgical procedures) is how these near future humans get off. Ugh.
Oh yeah, baby, remove that tumor!
The film is a brilliant dissection (pun very much intended) of the limits between art and humanity, and there are a ton of moralistic questions involved with Crimes of the Future. How far can evolution take us before we are no longer considered human, and how should we treat these beings if we don’t consider them as such? Further, what are the limits of what can be considered art? Sex? If art is considered sex (and I would argue that surgery is, quite frankly, neither in its present state), then we must question at what point art becomes inhumane.
We have seen in many cases throughout history how those who are viewed as “less-than-human” can be cast aside to be treated however we wish because of their perceived inhumanity. Cronenberg focuses this point of view by giving us the most pitiable example possible: a child who has evolved to only eat plastic rather than, ya know, food. His evolution is made possible, ultimately, by his father’s decision to have an elective surgery to make these changes within himself, a surgical change that may have passed down biologically upon procreation. Needless to say, the film fits extremely within the confines of science fiction with all of these bizarre alterations on the human condition, despite the low-down and dirty cinematography throughout. Though it is certainly not a criticism, the film feels more like we’re watching A Serbian Film than THX-1138, as the operating scenes within the film in no way occur in places where surgeries should be performed.
And beds that absolutely no one should sleep in.
The one major criticism that I would have of this film is that, strangely enough, it’s far too short. There’s too much left unanswered, too many strings that we desperately want to untie. An hour and forty seven minutes is simply not enough time to explore this world; we need a Shoah-length film to truly wrap our heads around this new form of society. Sadly, while the film is absolutely worth a watch and can be seen as a disgusting masterpiece, this film would’ve perhaps worked better as a miniseries if there was a television network brave enough to dare tell this story. What we receive is a slightly bewildering story that picks at the edges of greatness, a world that we must simply accept rather than one for which we should seek answers. Don’t get me wrong, though: for all of its beauty, this movie is gross as hell. There’s one particularly disgusting and gag-worthy scene, and if you’ve seen the movie already, you probably know which one I’m talking about. However, the acting is phenomenal and Cronenberg is one of the more capable horror and science fiction directors alive today.
All that being said: am I the only one who feels like I’m a bit flabbergasted when finishing a Cronenberg film? I’ve seen several (though not all, unfortunately) of his films at this point, and it’s one of those things where you know you’re looking at art, but you’re not entirely sure that you understand. He’s a bit Lynchian, crafting stories that ask more questions than they answer, and while this isn’t a bad thing by any means, it always leaves me feeling a bit unfulfilled. It’s not so much a narrative as it is an art project, a palette upon which Cronenberg casts his questions, and his indictments, of society writ large. I went to an art museum once where I saw an installation of Marcel Duchamp’s In Advance of the Broken Arm. It promised the story of an injury, a painful recollection of times past. There are many ways to tell this story in the world of art: you could draw a picture or paint a painting, perhaps craft a sculpture or even film your own narrative story in which to enthrall your audience. Duchamp hung a snow shovel from the ceiling with a string. Cronenberg feels like the same kind of artist, choosing far too simple a path to telling what could be an incredibly detailed and fascinating story. Sometimes, less is less.
To be fair, it was definitely memorable…
Who this movie is for: Science fiction lovers; Disgusting body horror fans; People who don’t have snowblowers
Bottom line: It’s clearly art in motion, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Cronenberg fans will delight at the story being told herein, but it doesn’t have nearly as much time as it needs to tell what is clearly an interesting tale. Beautiful film with an intriguing plot, Crimes of the Future is one that will disgust as many as it will thrill. Absolutely worth a watch for anyone interested in modern science fiction, but I just wish there was a bit more time to explain exactly what the fuck we were looking at.