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Kristen Stewart (left) and Viggo Mortensen in a still from Crimes of the Future (category TBC), directed by David Cronenberg. Léa Seydoux co-stars. Photo: Nikos Nikolopoulos

ReviewCannes 2022: Crimes of the Future movie review – David Cronenberg’s body horror starring Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart pictures a world without pain

  • Canadian writer-director David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future sees him return to the world of body horror that defined much of his work in the ’70s and ’80s
  • Some will balk at the slow pacing and the final act somewhat sputters but with committed performances, humour and twisted imagery, it’s Cronenberg at his best

4/5 stars

In the first minutes of Crimes of the Future, an eight-year-old boy digests the edges of a plastic bucket and is suffocated to death by his mother. Soon after, performance artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is glimpsed in a shell-like cocoon, the OrchidBed, with strange tentacles plugged into his body.

It’s safe to say that, at 79, Canadian writer-director David Cronenberg has lost none of his taste for the extreme. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, this latest movie, his first since 2014’s Maps to the Stars, sees him return to the world of body horror that defined so much of his early work in the ’70s and ’80s.

Set in a near-future industrial landscape, “human bodies are changing”, explains Tenser. Infections are disappearing. Pain is a thing confined to the past. And a process called Accelerated Evolution Syndrome sees the creation of new organs, something Tenser takes advantage of, with the help of his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux).

A former trauma surgeon, she now operates on him in front of a live audience, who get their kicks as Tenser’s innards are on full display and elaborate gizmos are used to harvest these internal growths.

“Surgery is the new sex,” says Kristen Stewart’s Timlin, a member of the National Organ Registry, a slightly shaky-looking organisation with an unhealthy interest in Tenser’s activities. This being Cronenberg, there are myriad ideas floating around, notably humanity’s willingness to enhance Mother Nature while also destroying the very environment it created.

Kristen Stewart (left) and Léa Seydoux in a still from Crimes of the Future. Photo: Nikos Nikolopoulos

There’s a loose noir feel too, thanks to Welket Bungué’s character, who works for New Vice, the institution investigating body crimes. Cinematographer Douglas Koch’s moody lighting, especially for scenes set around a shipwrecked boat, add to the eerie atmosphere.

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The practical effects are delicious, with Cronenberg and his team going all out to create a very tactile and fully realised world – including one brilliant figure with his eyes and lips sewn shut and ears planted all over his body.

The director’s prophetic virtual reality film eXistenZ feels closest to this in tone and texture, which should at least please devotees who’ve been hankering for a return to the Canadian’s own unique brand of provocative sci-fi/horror.

Léa Seydoux (top) and Viggo Mortensen in a still from Crimes of the Future. Photo: Nikos Nikolopoulos

Some will balk at the leisurely pacing, and the final act sputters when an injection of energy was required. But with performances of the committed kind, a dark strain of humour and some twisted imagery you’ll find hard to shake, it’s Cronenberg as you’ll know him best.

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