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Crimes of the Future: a horrifying vision of what's to come
Film review

Crimes of the Future: a horrifying vision of what's to come

by Tómas Atli Einarsson 3 min. 16.06.2022
It's so strangely intimate and so disturbingly alien that viewers can’t help but feel an intense morbid curiosity, says Tom Einarsson
Photo credit: Screenshot of official trailer

I was going to review Jurassic World: Dominion this week but found it so drawn-out and repetitive that I struggled to come up with anything to say. Good job I saw David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, which despite its more unnerving and uncanny aspects at least has substance to it, however creepy it may be. 

It was by pure coincidence that I recently got back into Cronenberg before discovering that Crimes of the Future was set to release this year. His particular brand of horror - often pertaining to the human body - is mostly defined by gruesome special effects.  

Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux star as a pair of performance artists in Cronenberg’s first sci-fi horror film since 1999. In a semi-dystopian future where pollution and climate collapse mark a decaying landscape, advances in biotechnology have left most of humanity without infectious disease or a sense of pain. 

The human body, in true Cronenbergian fashion, has become a canvas in this vision of the future. It's about extreme body modification, new organs and surgery-as-art and is so strangely intimate and so disturbingly alien that viewers can’t help but feel an intense morbid curiosity.

The film asks a fairly simple but profound question : what if the look and feel of the future was not the smooth, metallic materialism of the iPhone or the sleek mechanicalness of the Tesla Cybertruck? What if the future - as depicted in the film - was much more human-oriented, human-shaped? Cutting edge technology - wobbling chairs that facilitate eating, biomechanical beds or an autopsy station straight from the mind of artist H.R. Giger - all look disgustingly bony and fleshy and alive.  

The film certainly elicits a lot of thinking and asks a lot of questions. As much as it is about art, it’s also eager to present itself as an art film: stark environments, intensity conveyed in looks and words alone and a philosophical slant mark Crimes of the Future as not just a film about people being operated on while awake.  

But this also means that many of the characters speak as if they were reading from the pamphlet of an art exhibition. Cronenberg wrote the script some 20 years ago and only returned to it once his vision of it had matured. One result of this, I reckon, is that an inordinate amount of philosophising and re-writing has gone into the script, to the point that it gets ahead of itself as an artsy art film about art.  

Still, the intensity of the body horror sequences is matched by the demeanour of the people who willingly subject themselves to it. As horrifying as it is to imagine a future like the one in the film, the new trend of surgery-as-art is never fundamentally questioned. Really, everyone seems totally, even involuntarily, enraptured by it. 

The ‘monsters’ of the film are not just the bodies so uncannily shaped into new forms, but also the demented minds who find them beautiful. The true horror of Crimes of the Future, in other words, is not just physical, but cultural.

Crimes of the Future is a suffocating film in the sense that it gradually closes paths of flight from a dying world. It asks important questions about the need for art and humanity’s domineering spirit over not just the environment, but the human body itself. It might be a tiny bit full of itself, but it sure beats watching another film about dinosaurs breaking out of a park. 

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