A RUMBLE OF THUNDER greets the arrival of David Cronenberg. It would be unfair to say that it’s a little like a scene from one of his films. The director is far too clever to dabble in such crude sound design. Besides which, we no longer think of him as a Gothic figure. Do we? At any rate, the pathetic fallacy certainly provides Mr Cronenberg with a dramatic entrance.
The Cannes Film Festival is drawing to a close and Mr Cronenberg has arrived on the penthouse of the Marriot Hotel to discuss his strange new film, Cosmopolis. Robert Pattinson plays a rich young man travelling through an apocalyptic New York in a huge, self-sufficient limousine. Though based on a Don DeLillo novel written as long ago as 2003, Cosmopolis has plenty to say about the current financial meltdowns.
Cronenberg has always made serious films. Early works, made on minuscule budgets in his native Canada, such as Shivers and Rabid abounded with disgusting imagery, but they addressed complex questions concerning mortality and the nature of human sexuality.
“Even, if you look at Shivers, I think the dialogue is very interesting,” he says. “In a low-budget horror film, people are always interested in the gore and the special effects. I think it was funny and eccentric. I worked hard to make the dialogue interesting.”
That said, he does now seem (not necessarily a good thing) like a more respectable figure. He has headed the jury at this place. His last picture, A Dangerous Method, examined the relationship between Sigmund Freud and CJ Jung. What does he make of this notion that his sensibility has matured?
“No, no, no,” he says in his quiet, academic way. “I certainly am more mature. I mean I am actually older. My film-making is, maybe, more mature in that it is more confident. I had 40 days to shoot this and I finished it in 35. I do one or two takes. Back in 1988, I would shoot this angle and that angle.”
So he now has more confidence? One would think so. David has been at this lark for well over four decades. Whippet thin, his hair still teased into that Eraserhead bouffant, he answers questions with the logical discipline of a boffin asked to explain his latest musings on string theory. Indeed, his first ambition was to become a scientist. Raised in Toronto, he initially studied science at that city’s university before switching to English literature. Inspired by colleagues, he then improvised his way into a film career.
When did this confidence finally assert itself?
“The third day of shooting my first movie,” he says with a dry smile. “But it’s a matter of how much confidence – confidence to know that you don’t need certain things. As I say, in the early days, I would do a lot of coverage, then spend a lot of time in the editing suite putting it together.”