By Christian DiMartino
Director Brandon Cronenberg is the son of David Cronenberg, a master of the audacious, bizarre, and disturbing (The Fly, Crash, Naked Lunch). Brandon also made Possessor back in 2020, which was a grisly, unnerving experience. Alexander Skarsgard is an actor who I’m now convinced will do anything, no matter what the strange challenge may be. He is also the father of Stellan, who headlines a lot of Lars Von Trier movies, and the brother of Bill, who played Pennywise in the It. Then there’s Mia Goth, who has appeared in a number of audacious movies since she broke onto the scene (Nymphomaniac, Suspiria, High Life, A Cure for Wellness), but really won me over last year with her brilliant work in X and Pearl. What happens when you get these three weirdos together?
Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool.
The film is certainly an acquired taste, but as usual, I couldn’t help but admire the crazy energy that these people brought to it. I also can’t help but admire the fact that this thing is currently playing in theatres at the same time as Avatar: The Way of Water and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Infinity Pool plays like a science fiction version of The White Lotus, if that show had snorted a heavy amount of meth. Amidst all of the nuttiness on the screen, there is a commentary on the rich, as well as philosophical questions that I know I’ve certainly never asked myself.
I went into this fairly blind, but as it started to unravel the premise from the trailer began to click. James and Em Foster (Skarsgard and Cleopatra Coleman) are staying at an all-inclusive resort on the fictional island of La Tolqa. James is a writer and currently a one-hit wonder, but his celebrity is enough to attract the attention of fellow guest Gabi (Goth). Gabi and her man invite the Fosters to spend time with them on the island. They go sight seeing, they have dinner, they drink a lot, etc. All goes well, but we know s**t is going to hit the fan sooner or later.
Hit the fan, it does. James, heavily intoxicated, is driving them home one night when he hits a man, killing him instantly. Obviously freaked out, Gabi tells them all to chill out, and that they will have it handled by the morning. The next morning, James and Em are woken up by the authorities and are taken in for questioning. James is essentially told that he is to be executed… uh sort of. They strip him naked, but this mouth piece in, and then they stick him in what looks like a room filled with marinara. Some trippy stuff happens, and when James wakes up, he is shown that he has apparently been cloned, and that he gets to witness the murder of his clone.
So he witnesses himself being murdered by a small child, and he reacts with a grin. Where the movie goes from here, I won’t share. But I will say this: it’s never made clear whether or not the original James is doing the smirking, or being executed. And is he smirking because he enjoyed witnessing his own murder, or was it because a dark recess in his mind was unlocked and he has now discovered some new opportunities?
I don’t know who this movie is for, but I’m glad it’s here. I liked it, at least. There is apparently an NC-17 cut out there that is not being shown to audiences this weekend. Which, on one hand, I was kind of grateful for (Possessor was some really disturbing stuff) but on the other hand, I’m curious to see. I liked this film for the way that its imagery and its ideas have stuck with me. Also for the fact that they not only got to make it, but the way that they got to make it this way. Netflix allows this sort of thing. A24 does too. This is a Neon production though, the studio that brought Parasite and Titane. They appear to be cut from the same cloth.
As do Cronenberg, Skarsgard, and Goth. Cronenberg is very much his father’s son, and since his dad doesn’t make many movies anymore (although he had the pretty okay Crimes of the Future last year), I’m happy that we can still have original creators out there. Skarsgard is an actor whose range I continuously admire, whether he’s the loving husband in Melancholia, the abusive husband in Big Little Lies, or a murderous Viking in The Northman. I’m not going to go into full details on just what he does in Infinity Pool, but there is a red carpet image from the premiere of this movie floating around on the internet. I suggest you Google it, and it’ll give you an idea.
The one who continues to win my heart the most though is Mia Goth. Who had been on my radar for her consistently strange choices in film, but blew me away twice last year in X and especially Pearl (she recently called the Academy out for neglecting to recognize horror, and I support that; Goth in Pearl is 30x a more interesting performance than Ana De Armas’ in Blonde, with all due respect to De Armas and no respect to Blonde). With Infinity Pool, she officially holds my heart in her hands, and if she chose to squeeze it, I’d understand. Come the final act of Infinity Pool, she really gets to have an unhinged, demented ball. I gotta say, the image of Goth, on the hood of a car, holding a gun, knocking back wine with a bucket of chicken next to her, is etched into my brain. I may see better movies than Infinity Pool this year, but I don’t know if many images will bring me more joy than that one.
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