Interview with David Cronenberg on ‘Future Crime’ and Body Horror

CANNES: The director elaborates on the complex themes of his new film to IndieWire and why he always seems to be ahead of his time.

David Cronenberg Keeping movies ahead of their time – he wants to keep it that way. When the global pandemic hit, the body horror godfather didn’t rush into his own response.

“I kind of feel like I’ve done it with ‘Shivers’ and ‘Rabid,'” the filmmaker told IndieWire in an interview with IndieWire Cannes Film Festival, sitting on a hotel balcony at the Cannes Film Festival, referencing a film he made four years ago. “Certainly, the whole ‘body is reality’ thing is very real to me. What affects the human body is very basic, primitive and essential.”

“Body is reality” is from “future crime,” the 79-year-old director’s first feature film in eight years, premiered at Cannes this week. Borrowing the title of his unrelated 1970 film and drawing on a script he wrote 20 years ago, the film once again showcases a The imprint of a director so immersed in his exploratory concepts that he asks the audience to think hard to keep up.

In a near future where people can grow new organs in their bodies, “Crimes of the Future” centers on a performance artist couple (Viggo Mortensen and Leah Seydoux) whose work involves The organs were removed in front of a live audience and reviewed by a team of bureaucratic investigators from the National Organ Registry (Don McKellar and Kristen Stewart). Like much of Cronenberg’s work, the scene eschews precise interpretation, even if it amounts to a remarkable meditation on identity. In this case, the focus is on the interplay of physics and technology unique to the 21st century—so of course it makes sense that Cronenberg came up with it at the end of the 20th century.

“When I wrote this in 1998, it was very theoretical – not like now, when everyone is talking about microplastics in blood“The human condition is the subject of my filmmaking and all my art. Now, these things are interesting in terms of where people are and how they live.”

The film has some contemporary twists, including meme-worthy lines like “Surgery is the new gender,” an observation Cronenberg said was inspired by the number of surgeries people can watch on YouTube. POV footage of the “Ring Camera” shot with the iPhone was also repeated, showing Cronenberg’s admission that personal devices have invaded the way we see the world. “It’s meant to be ultra-modern,” Cronenberg said.

The director, who has previously explored the prospect of technological control affecting everyday life with “Videodrome,” said he hopes to incorporate a similar theme this time around. “Crimes of the Future” not only revels in the interaction between art and technology, but also in the interaction between art and technology. It entered the human interior at the core of that intersection. “As a filmmaker, I personally don’t have an agenda, but I’m interested in those who have an agenda because that reveals a lot of things about how they struggle with who they are and who they should be,” he said. “My filmmaking is not literally political.”

future crime

“Crimes of the Future”

Screenshot / Neon

In another interview at Cannes, Seydoux said she was shocked by Cronenberg’s sensitivity. “He’s very romantic, very romantic, that’s not what you would expect,” she said. “He’s very sentimental on the inside, very dynamic, very young. It’s inspiring. I think there’s something about him, it’s great when you appreciate people and meet them in reality, and they’re even better than you think. “

Still, she couldn’t get many answers from the director about the nature of her role as a surgical artist. “He didn’t like to talk about it,” she said. “But we had really interesting conversations about life and love.”

Cronenberg is pleased with the ambiguity of his work. “Most of my films are open ended,” he said. “Things don’t get tied up in a pretty little bow.”

Although he speculated that other interview Audiences may be stepping out of the film ahead of the opening of the Cannes Film Festival, and he is now exuding a Zen-like energy about the potential acceptance of his work. “You know, I’m from the ’60s,” he said, referring to the era when he made his first feature film. “I just want to relax here right now. I never know how people will react.”

Plus, whatever happens, he already has a new project in the works, slated to be filmed in Toronto next spring: “Shroud,” which imagines a world where people can watch dead loved ones rot in real time. The film has been seeking financing in the Cannes market.

Originally, Cronenberg was paid by Netflix to develop the concept as a series, and said he wrote two episodes before the streaming service pulled out. “I think they were very conservative and for whatever reason they didn’t go ahead with my project,” he said. “I still thank them because I wrote a script that I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for their passion. “I’m interested in streaming series as another form of film because suddenly you’re making eight to Ten hours of film. “

As for “crime of the future,” Cronenberg said he researched the COVID protocols used for the production through a televised gig the year before filming. “I wanted to see if it was possible to make a movie using these protocols,” he said. “How embarrassing is it, how expensive is it, does it affect your acting, your director, your acting? I see it’s totally doable. It used to be more expensive it used to be More awkward, but it’s very doable and you’re used to it. You are used to wearing a mask. While filming “Future Crime” in Athens, “no one of our 150 crew got the coronavirus, so it worked,” he said.

Since 2014’s Map of the Stars, Cronenberg has written a horror novel, produced VR experiences, and played roles in the series Slasher and Star Trek: Discovery. But the world has stripped him of his filmmaking rights at a pivotal moment of social unrest, including what he says is a new sensitivity to on-screen representation that gave him pause. “A lot of artists are worried about saying the wrong word on Twitter or getting canceled,” he said. “It’s a weird kind of Stalinism. It’s not about the same politics, it’s about the outcome – a lack of flexibility and a lack of understanding of what art is.”

It doesn’t take much excitement for Cronenberg to provide some details. “Certainly, once people feel like they’re getting some power through these things, there’s going to be electric travel,” he said. “You take things like the #MeToo movement, which is perfectly legal, but obviously it can be politicized and weaponized by people who want to take it to ridiculous extremes, and that has happened. So what do you do with it? I think it always happens. Something of value is misused and used as a weapon. Maybe for personal revenge. Right now, there are a lot of people who are afraid.”

“Crimes of the Future”

Cronenberg said he pushed his work back to the institutional level in 1979, when the Ontario Board of Review cut some scenes from “The Brood” without his permission (and later reinstated it). “I’ve had things that were forbidden, things that were bad, things that were forbidden,” he said. “In terms of changing my approach, I didn’t notice it.”

The gap between his last film and this one also means the filmmaker isn’t joining the ranks of artists paying homage to the Trump era, even though the afroheads in “Scanner” are capturing the natural In essence, it is also ahead of the times. public discourse these days. “I have to tell you that I don’t respect my art with Donald Trump,” Cronenberg said. “He doesn’t deserve it. He’s ridiculous to me as a destructive force. It’s so obvious that I can’t believe anyone would vote for him.”

No matter how his work describes the manipulation of the flesh, Cronenberg makes one thing clear: He abhors anti-vaccine people. “When I was a kid, we were all afraid of polio,” he said. “Vaccines are the savior. I can’t believe the attitude towards vaccines now. It’s an amazing thing to be able to get vaccinated now. If you refuse to get vaccinated, I just think you’re a ridiculous person.”

The filmmaker has been frequently asked about his business opportunities over the years, including “Top Gun” and “Flash Dance.” He insists he never took the proposals seriously. “People keep asking me this question, and there may be some misunderstandings,” he said. “I’m flattered because they’re trying to put a massive enterprise into your hands.” He added that for Top Gun, he was first put off by one ingredient. “I like machines. I like those jets,” he said. “It’s all about the American military stuff, that’s not something I want to do.” Asked if he found any fascist overtones to the plot, he added: “I would say it could be a problem,” he said. “There’s a little in it.”

Cronenberg’s thematic consistency has inspired a new generation of filmmakers, including his own son Brandon Cronenberg. The young Cronenberg’s disturbing and imaginative thrillers “Antivirus” and “Possessor” are undeniable spiritual successors to his father’s work, though he has been reluctant to discuss such comparisons in interviews.

“I think it’s for obvious reasons,” David said. “But we love each other and talk about it all the time.” It turns out that both Cronenbergs are simultaneously shooting a new film from US distributor Neon, and Brandon has decided not to rush to finish his upcoming Alexander Skarsgard work “Infinity Pool” , in order to clear the way for his work at the Cannes Film Festival deadline. dad. “It’s really sweet,” David said. “It’s a wonderful thing for a dad to shoot at the same time. I’m really proud.”

Then there’s Julia Ducournau, the rising star who won the Palme d’Or last year for “Titans,” the Cronenbergian tale of a serial killer woman who has sex with cars. It eventually became the country’s Oscars. While Mortensen recently compared the film unfavorably to Cronenberg’s “Crash,” the director, who was in Paris last week for a conversation with Ducournau, felt differently. “I really liked the movie,” he said. “She’s very visual. I know she’s said how much my filmmaking influences me, but it’s basically in the sense of unleashing her own sensibility, which is unique. She has a very strong vision Sensation and absurd, extreme. Her films are nothing like mine.”




And then there’s honor. “I’m glad she won the Palme d’Or, I think it’s a real breakthrough for the festival,” he said. “Not only that, but the fact that it was chosen to represent France as the official Oscars selection is quite bold. It also tends to be a conservative choice. In this case, they did it.”

Still, Cronenberg is indifferent to awards for his own work (he was never nominated for an Oscar, although A History of Violence was nominated for William Hurt and screenwriter Josh Olsen). “I forgot which awards I won,” he said, without a hint of irony. “I have to look at my shelves and see what they are. “I’m not arrogant. real. You often know that presenters do more for themselves than for you. They need someone to be a puppet for a festival or whatever. In a way, it’s a bit of a deal. That’s not why I make movies. “

So what is the reason for this? He answered questions so quickly it was almost like a spell. “Being an artist, creating and connecting with humans,” he said. But even as he turned eighty, he didn’t commit to filmmaking at all costs. “Movies are not my life,” he said. “I have three kids, four grandchildren. That’s life.”

Sins of the Future premieres at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Neon will be released in the US on Friday, June 3rd.

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