Dripping ejaculate. Psychedelic montage sex. Adult breastfeeding. Distorted skin masks. Nobody could accuse Brandon Cronenberg of tarnishing the family name.
Brandon, son of the Canadian film-maker David Cronenberg, who defined body horror with such transgressions as Videodrome and Dead Ringers, has turned in two discombobulating features to date – tessellating provocation and privilege, the figurative fluidity of identity and the actual fluidity of corporeal byproducts. Whatever overlapping preoccupations he may share with Dad, he’s one of the most distinctive talents in contemporary cinema.
Following on from Antiviral and Possessor, Infinity Pool crafts a nightmarish vacation. James (Alexander Skarsgärd), a novelist suffering from writer’s block, and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), are on a pricey getaway in the fictional state of Li Tolqa when they encounter the younger, hipper couple Gabi (Mia Goth) and Al (Jalil Lespert). Gabi fangirls shamelessly over James’s writing and enthusiastically offers what Leopold Bloom calls “tumescence”.
[ Mia Goth: ‘I love the people of Northern Ireland. They really know how to have fun’ ]
A captivated James takes off on a joyride with his new friends, only to run over a local after extensive partying. The penalty is death. This, however, is an exclusive resort – so exclusive that it offers a loophole for wealthy visitors. If James submits to cloning he can watch his clone die in this stead. It’s a harrowing experience but, instead of getting on the first plane out of there, James pretends to lose his passport so he can indulge in endless debauchery. Suddenly, there are – in common with the titular structure – zero edges.
Ryan Tubridy’s last Late Late: Host brims with emotion as Saoirse Ronan, U2 and Paul McCartney make appearances
‘I miss breakfast rolls and the sense of humour but our life in the US has been as normal as anyone else’s with young kids’
There is, conversely, an endless downward torrent. Extravagant horrors and psychological torments ensue. James Vandewater’s edits and Karim Hussain’s phantasmagoric visuals add to the anxiety and chaos.
Mia Goth, leading the foolish hero down a blood-splattered primrose path, adds giddier notes to the committed mania of her central turn in Pearl. Skarsgård has never been better or more put-upon, in a role that feels like an endurance event.
Cronenberg’s script mines occidental uncertainty, unfettered privilege and autonomy. Long before we see James wrestling a naked version of himself, his sudden swerve into life without consequence leaves the viewer unsure if he’s the same character or a deranged facsimile. Picture the doppelganger protagonist of James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner trapped in a punishing, inescapable layover.