Director of the Week: David Cronenberg
By Sadira Sittampalam
Ceylon Today Features
David Cronenberg is a Canadian filmmaker and one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror genre, which explores a lot of bodily transformations, infections, technology and the intertwining of the psychological with the physical. As a director Cronenberg always strives to create movies that are original, daring and audacious, very often succeeding, building up a pretty stellar repertoire over the years.
4. Videodrome (1983)
Set in Toronto in the early 1980s, this film follows the CEO of a small television station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring violence and torture. He uncovers layers of deception with an entire mind-control conspiracy unfolding as he uncovers the signals source, but begins to lose touch with reality in a series of increasingly bizarre hallucinations. Envisioning a coming world of authoritarian entertainment, this film shows us the world to come as we continue the rather dangerous relationship we have with media in its various mediums and how it has grown to consume us. This film is grotesque, confusing and premonitory, but is at the same time a little confused with itself and the direction it takes towards the end of the film. While its ideas remain influential and impactful, one can’t help but wonder what the film could have been if the concepts it presented in towards the end were a little more cohesive.
3. A History of Violence (2005)
Based on the 1997 graphic novel of the same name, this film follows the owner of a small town diner who is thrust into the spotlight after confronting two robbers in self-defense, thus changing his life forever. This film raises compelling and thoughtful questions about the nature of violence in a pretty uncharacteristic film from Cronenberg. With a thorough and convincing examination of heroism, hero worship and the allure of villainy, this film is one that is surprisingly complex and layered giving us something that is both thought provoking and entertaining. Thus, intense, thoughtful and morally ambiguous, this film is an excellent dive into everything that is horrific about human nature.
2. Eastern Promises (2007)
The film tells the story of Nikolai, a ruthless and mysterious man with ties to one of the most dangerous crime families in London. He crosses paths with a midwife named Anna, who has come across some potentially damaging evidence against the family; forcing him into a path of deceit, death and retribution. A mesmerising thriller, this film offers a very compelling crime story that doesn’t shy away from tough subjects that others may avoid. While the film feels small in scale and in terms of its narrative, it offers a perfect view of crime and the elemental struggles of good vs evil. While the violence is graphic, it never feels gratuitous, which is a line that few directors can maintain. Furthermore, Viggo Mortensen delivers one of the most heart wrenching performances of the decade, giving us an intensely subtle performance as Nikolai who we slowly get to know and understand through certain cues, looks or glares.
1. The Fly (1986)
Loosely based on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name and the 1958 film, The Fly follows scientist Seth Brundle who builds a teleportation device. He tests out the device, however, unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to some pretty unforeseen consequences. This film continues Cronenberg’s affinity for movies with gore and horror, while also not compromising on the characters and story. For a movie made in 1986, the special effects are still pretty good, managing to full gross me out. There is a constant sense of tension throughout the film, keeping you constantly on edge with the development of the story and the acute sense of tragedy that what you know is about to happen, will in fact happen. Moreover, the film has so much relevance to the issues of society towards natural happenings like age or disease - making it something that is eternally relevant and continuously scary.