BULLET COMMENTS SEPTEMBER 2022
September 24, 2022
A TALE OF TWO ENIGMATIC FILMS
We have all had the experience. After viewing a particularly challenging film, a film that even seemed outright weird, we asked ourselves or asked others around us: what was this movie telling us? Or even: what was it about?
This may be the experience many of us had after viewing Crimes of the Future, the latest film from Canadian director David Cronenberg, released during this summer of 2022, and presented at the Cannes Film Festival last spring. (you can consult The Movie Shrink’s detailed comments on the film on our site).
Somehow, this Cronenberg story seemed to have much in common with another challenging film, last year’s winner of the Palme d’Or at The Cannes Film Festival, by French director Julia Ducourneau, Titane (2021*). They both seemed to address life and death matters, relating to our bodies, and bodily modifications, under a cloud of mystery and tension. (you can consult The Movie Shrink’s detailed comments on Titane on our site*)
Could it be that one challenging film helps the understanding of another challenging film? As if two enigmas were more easily solved than one.
Both films made it to the main competition of the Cannes Festival. Titane even went on in 2021 to win the grand prize, the Palme d’Or, but the Cronenberg piece did not. Two years in a row winning the ultimate prize, for this type of quite challenging film, would have been a lot to swallow, even for the Cannes Festival. In both cases, the official presentation of the films did not go easily with part of the audience present at the viewing.
Let us recall some elements of each film’s story.
Crimes of the Future
Crimes of the Future describes the life of a scientist-showman, living in the not-too-distant future, who exhibits in public, and before a paying audience, new additions of body parts emerging from his body, as a new and emerging new bureaucracy, The National Organ Registry, is set to intervene in these proceedings. All the while, a young boy, who is capable to eat and digest plastic, is killed by his mother when she fears that he is the holder of dangerous and unwelcomed physical mutations.
A female serial killer, among her different activities, has intercourse with an automobile in a car show and, as we see later, becomes pregnant from the experience. When, later, she delivers the offspring, she leaks oil, presumably in the place of blood. In the meantime, she disguises herself as a young boy, to appear as the boy that a grieving father has lost. The grieving father falls for the disguise (or wants to fall for it), and the two become lovers of sorts.
Some interpretations offered
Predictably, interpretations of these challenging films went far and wide, even all over the place. To say nothing about the critics.
Crimes of the Future was seen as a futuristic film about madness and the sorry fate of humankind, an interpretation sometimes related to the destruction of the environment.
Titane was seen sometimes as a feminist manifesto, the story of a woman who can give birth without the contribution of a male, in a conventional sense. Some have seen the film as a post-modern manifesto, where our mental categories are shaken and where traditional power relations are modified and transformed. Titane was saved, for some, by its aesthetic qualities.
Those interpretations, because of their variety, can leave us unsatisfied and wanting to understand more.
Understanding each film with the help of the other
But what if two enigmatic films were more easily made sense of than each one of them standing alone?
This is what The Movie Shrink is working on.
Both films seem to consider the human body as something malleable, modifiable, something that is not permanent or fixed. In Crimes of the Future, the human body is changing, new organs appear, humans can now digest plastic, and, in Titane, a female can become pregnant out of intercourse with an automobile, quite strange events indeed, but strange events that go in the same direction. Nature, what is given to us at the start, is not constraining, it can be subject to change.
In their own way, both films address an age-old and permanent tension that has been part of the human story for centuries. This tension has been addressed in different ways and is reflected in different expressions: mind over matter, mind over body, nature versus nurture, and in its more recent expression, software over hardware.
In recent decades, indeed, with the development of all things internet, software of all kinds, and social media, the mental part of our life has taken an impressive expansion over its physical dimension. We have become angels, with an indeterminate body, let alone a fixed sexual identity. Earlier, in the preceding decades, economists had been telling us that services had replaced the production of physical goods in our everyday economic activities, and so, here again, the purely physical is giving way to the non-physical.
Some may ask if our view of the two films can be taken as endorsing or criticizing current political trends, for or against sexual orientations or sex change, for example. Not the case at all. Neither do we propose a definite interpretation of two enigmatic films, Crimes of the Future (2022) and Titane (2021), we are only trying to shed some light on each one, with the help of the other. Two enigmatic films are better understood than one, as they both reflect, in their own way, some important undercurrents of our times, beyond the will of their creator.