Crouching in Shipyards with Viggo Mortensen (Crimes of the Future)
Crimes of the Future (2022) by David Cronenberg — Watched on June 3, 2022
There’s a lot of crouching in this film. Like crouching/squatting almost as if he’s in the gym. First Viggo Mortensen’s Saul Tenser squats and then the rest of the film joins him in his squatting ways. No one ever questions his squatting either. But I promise you there’s more in this film that exists outside of the squatting.
The film is shot in Greece (for some reason) and starts with a boy playing in the sand on the beach, while his mother warns him not to eat anything he finds in the sand. These are the first words said in the film, and in any other film you would wonder what you just walked into but you quickly realise that you’re in the wild, wonderful world of David Cronenberg. The boy is also sitting right in front of what seems like a capsized ship but is also something that is never explained. And just like when you go on a roller coaster and you throw your hands in the air, you quickly become immersed in his world. It pulls you in and forces you to take a seat. You’re thrown into divergent stories that you simply expect will somehow work their way to one another. We quickly meet Viggo Mortensen’s Saul Tenser and his partner, Lea Seydoux’s Caprice. Saul Tenser is a man who grows novel organs inside his body, while Caprice is a former trauma surgeon who extracts these new organs from his body as part of their performance art.
While Caprice is still happy with the partnership and their art, Saul is often tired of being an artist and wondering if anyone is concerned with his art as his audience marvels around him.
Upon the growth of one of his new organs, Saul and Caprice report the growth to a government agency called the National Organ Register. At the National Organ Register, we meet Timlin, played by Kristen Stewart, and Wippet played by Don McKellar (Kellar’s Wippet even is revealed to be behind underground performance art shows). While upon first meeting, the two investigators seem to be concerned for the scientific and evolutionary ramifications of the novel organs, they quickly become swept up in the performance art of Saul and Caprice.
I should expand on the world we are in here.
Saul is someone who due to his ability to develop new organs needs a specific bed to regulate and anticipate his pain but coincidentally, this is also a world where no one feels pain when they are awake. And as such, there are stabby sessions where people are cutting each other’s skin on the street.
At one point Wippet says that everyone wants to be a performance artist and nothing is more true. We find our characters at a host of performance art shows as they ponder questions about what is happening to the body and to evolution and humanity as a whole.
We see the now-viral clip of Kristin Stewart saying that “surgery is the new sex” in her wonderful Timlin voice.
She’s great here, as she always is.
This is a world where it feels like no one ever speaks of anything besides these performance art shows. Where a man eats a bar at a show and dies and no one particularly bats an eye. While the film may have the genre “body-horror”, it spends most of its time contemplating the impacts of an everchanging technological landscape on the environment and as a consequence on the body.
The environment has changed, and we have followed. While we are clearly in another world, Cronenberg’s musings on evolution and our evolving place in the world we live in remain astute. At one point in the film, we meet characters who no longer eat what we know as food but rather eat plastic and are known eloquently as the “plastic eaters”. While Cronenberg goes back to some of his body horror like with “The Brood” he looks at us and asks “what an everchanging technological and biological landscape might do to us as a species?”
And for all its wonderfully weird acting, honestly just going to see this film to watch Mortensen and Welker Bungue’s Detective Cope squat and crouch to have conversations on evolution in random places such as a shipyard is great enough.
Seydoux is great as usual and there’s a couple of characters known as Router and Berst that are wonderful “comical” delights if I can even call them that. For all its storytelling, it feels like this movie could be at five movies, it remains compelling and intriguing that you want to know more.