Hallucinogenic semen tasting, artificial anus penetration, man merging with a fly… David Cronenberg’s cinema spared us no visual shock. But it takes composure to endure the opening scene of Future Crimes. In a leprous house by the ocean, a mother bends over the body of her sleeping little boy and smothers him under her pillow. For her, he is a “monster”. Like many humans living in this indeterminate future, he is struck by disconcerting physical mutations. Pain and infections are almost gone. On the other hand, thousands of men and women see new organs developing within them, flowers of flesh escaping all classification. Living in a world of grime and rust, they explore new ways of eating, sleeping and copulating…
The phenomenon worries governments, who fear that mutant humanity is heading for “catastrophe”. It delights the manufacturers of technological objects, who see in it the opportunity to market products adapted to these morphologies. It allows embraces without caresses or kisses, where radical pleasures are torn off with scalpel blows. “Surgery is the new sexuality…” whispers a dazed Kristen Stewart of desire in the ear of Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), who transforms the removal of his new organs by his companion Caprice (Léa Seydoux) into artistic performances of disturbing intensity.
At the heart of this social, organic and moral chaos, the father of the dead child addresses the loving duo to offer them to autopsy the body of his son, guardian, according to him, of the future of the world… Huge film noir of a Cronenberg at the height of his art, Les Crimes du futur galvanizes the viewer as much as it revolts him, by cultivating a haunting poetics of unease. Here is an excerpt from our encounter with the master of all transgressions.
The Point: In “The Crimes of the Future”, the decrepit setting where sickly characters evolve is opposed to the very advanced technology they manipulate. Why this paradox?
David Cronenberg: Over time, the body degrades. Cities are changing. Everything is destined to grow, then to disintegrate. I love technology because it reproduces this need to grow from nature. It is a pure product of our humanity. Here, look (he removes a discreet device from his ear canal and brandishes it above the table). I have hearing problems. Without these little prostheses, my career would have ended a long time ago. They’re connected to my watch and my phone (he pulls out his phone and opens an app). I can change my auditory perception of the world. Isn’t that awesome? Look at the atomic bomb, the fantastically horrible and absolutely awesome power of the atom. Look at the war in Ukraine, this advanced technology used to ravage a country. Technology is like us: both brilliant and destructive. Paradoxical.
The film is sprinkled with references to your previous works. Is it nostalgia? A testament film?
It’s nothing. It’s David Cronenberg who makes films, as if each one were the first, without ever thinking about the precedents. I know that people who know my work will see connections between my films, and of course, in retrospect, I see them too. But I don’t quote myself, I don’t wink at the viewer.
What are you going to see at the cinema?
I haven’t set foot in a cinema for fifty years. I like to stay at home. I hate looking for a parking spot. I hate the forty minutes of publicity they inflict on us. I hate people who eat popcorn and turn on their phones. We idealize the cinema, but it has nothing to do with a ritual of sacred communion. As soon as the TV screens got good enough to allow me to, I stopped going.
Do you like series?
A lot. I watched tons of them during confinement. I loved The Office of Legends. Squid Game is very well done, extreme, dark. I saw Turkish, Korean, Finnish series, most of them are very good. I have toyed with the project of making one. I would love to direct one or two first episodes, then pass the baton to another director, and supervise it. That would be interesting, new. I wrote two episodes of a series I called The Shrouds for Netflix producers. They liked it, but after long negotiations, decided not to. I turned these two episodes into a movie script, I think it will be my next one.
Find our full interview with David Cronenberg in Le Point on Thursday, May 26.