7.10.2007

Crash

First, the awesome news: I will soon be reviewing movies for the Dutch film website filmtotaal, and I couldn't be more thrilled. I mean, not only will I get to go to advance screenings and stuff, but, for the first time, I'll get paid (a little) for writing. Like a real journalist. I feel like Pinocchio. Hopefully I won't turn out to have been transformed into a smoking donkey.

Anyway, when introducing myself on the message boards, I listed a few of my favorite directors. Among them was David Cronenberg. And well, while I can honestly say I've loved all the Cronenbergs I've seen so far, it is true that, at the time of writing, I'd only seen two: eXistenZ and A History of Violence. Luckily, these things are easy to remedy, and now I've added Crash to that list. I'm glad to report that Cronenberg is, in my eyes, now 3 for 3.

I'm sure I don't need to add this, but I will just in case, for clarity's sake: I am not, I repeat, not referring to the recent Oscar winning Paul Haggis film about racism. I am instead referring to the Cronenberg film about people who get turned on by car crashes.

And boy, do they get it on. I don't remember seeing any other film -that wasn't porn- that included so much sex. In all kinds of positions, between numerous different couples, mostly in cars, but not exclusively. The most surprising thing is that, with maybe one or two exceptions, these sex scenes are not just window-dressing, they're not there (just) to titillate, no, they're essential to character development and even to the plot.

It's amazing to me how flatly and non-sensationally Cronenberg films everything. He views these characters without judgment: he never presents them as freaks, but I don't think he thinks we should fully go along with their fetish, either. As such, the film is fascinating, and you get to understand the appeal of mangled steel and scarred flesh, without necessarily needing to share in the obsession.

Still, the amount and graphic nature of sex scenes is not the most remarkable thing here. No, that would be the total lack of conflict in the plot. There is no jealousy, and while there is definitely physical danger, it is unaccompanied by any fear or pain. Our main character, played by James Spader, is impossible to read: he goes along with everything, and is clearly affected in some way, but it's unclear what it is exactly that he seeks.

Because of the lack of conflict, it's not really surprising that the ending is nothing more than a reflection of the beginning: James and his wife start out unsatisfied, longing for something they can't quite reach, and they end up exactly the same way, just with a different method, a different goal. Even the words are the same: "Maybe the next one". It's a film about people who are forever looking for the next thing, the next thrill, and the only conclusion you can draw is that whatever they try, they'll always be unsatisfied.

I still think that A History of Violence is the more controversial and though-provoking film of the two, not in spite but because of its apparent normalcy, and it's the more coherent, precise film too. However, I did enjoy Crash very much, and I'll definitely be watching more Cronenberg soon.

1 comment:

M said...

Congrats on the FilmTotaal job!
I'd expected this to happen sooner or later, since even though I'm a film nut myself, my reviews (if I would write them) wouldn't go nearly as deep as yours. Nice work!