Crimes of the Future  (18) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. David Cronenberg, Canada/UK/Greece, 2022, 108 mins

Cast:  Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Don McKellar, Kristen Stewart

Review by Carol Allen

I confess I am somewhat baffled by David Cronenberg’s latest film.  In terms of its sometimes gross and startling images and incomprehensibility it is reminiscent of early Cronenberg films like The Brood and Videodrome, before he made The Fly and started to win a wider fan base.  

The title however will tell you that it reflects Cronenberg’s interest in sci-fi, in that it’s set in the future – a future it appears where humankind is starting to evolve in some very strange ways.  It starts off clearly and indeed dramatically enough when we see a little boy apparently eating a plastic bucket.  His mother is so horrified that she kills him.  Later on in the film we gather that his father encouraged him to become an evolved plastic eater and therefore is very upset.  

For most of the film though our attention is centred on Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux).   His bit of interesting evolution is growing new organs inside his body.  He’s made a career out of it as a performance artist.  Once an organ is ready to go, he and Caprice put on a show in an operating theatre in which she cuts out the new addition and displays it to the audience.  Reminiscent in a way of the old Victorian operating theatres which were also public entertainments but in terms of cinematic images Caprice groping around in his innards and digging out the prize may strike some audience members as a bit on the gross side, along with other scenes involving masochism and similar.

There’s also a government agency, the National Organ Registry taking an interest in all this.  Their two agents nosing around the scene are bureaucrats Wippet and Timlin, who sound like characters from a Disney cartoon but are played with all seriousness by Don McKellar and Kristen Stewart – though what exactly is their interest is never really clear.  

Mortensen is a very good actor but most of the time here he just looks rather pained, as though he’s got a bad belly ache – which the character probably has.  And as Cronenberg’s latest vision of the future, the film is certainly a dark and depressing one. 

Looking for enlightenment I came across this quote from Cronenberg, when asked to explain his film.  “I’d say Crimes of the Future is about the crimes committed by the human body against itself, and I know that that’s kind of mysterious and kind of confusing but that’s my answer to that question.”   Thanks, Mr Cronenberg.  I guess that’s all we’re going to get then!