January 26th, 2023
MOVIE: INFINITY POOL
STARRING: ALEXANDER SKARSGARD, MIA GOTH, CLEOPATRA COLEMAN, JALIL LESPERT
DIRECTED BY: BRANDON CRONENBERG
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The baton was passed instantly from David Cronenberg to his son Brandon. But with Infinity Pool one can pick up the sense that the child has been set free. What started with Antiviral and made a giant leap in Possessor has now come full circle in his most ambitious work yet. Part science fiction, weaved with horror, mixed into a psychedelic fever dream. This is a bold and daring expression of an inventive mind. It’s not a perfect piece of art…but it’s close. Infinity Pool submerges all our senses into a wild experience that could only come from the mind of someone with the last name Cronenberg.
It begins at a resort in a fictional country. We meet author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), enjoying a romantic getaway to find inspiration for James to crawl out of his writer’s block. In their leisure relaxation, they are approached by a woman named Gabi (Mia Goth), who expresses her love for James’ writing, sparking a conversation and inviting the couple for dinner with her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert). A casual picnic by the ocean, drinks, and flirtations are had. On the way back, James accidentally hits and kills a man with the car, and in this predicament, Gabi and Alban say there is a way around any repercussions. For a wealthy fee, there is a process in this country, where a person can be cloned– where the clone is executed for their crimes by the victim’s family member– and the original person receives a second chance at life. But what did we just witness? Who is killed? Is it the original copy or the clone?
As far as being outrageous or outspoken, Cronenberg isn’t trying to copy his father, but instead, circumvent it. Similar to his themes in Antiviral and Possessor, the question of human flesh comes into play, and what inhabits a human inside the body. In the moment of James witnessing his own death, we might fail to grasp the sheer trauma of his experience. But we feel the ground drop when in his efforts to leave are halted by minor issues. It’s only here that we begin to question who is behind those eyes. The screenplay is on its face original, taking a different approach to what wealth can buy the 1%- it certainly gets them freedom and the privilege of never being responsible for their actions. Instead, the penalty arrives, not in the form of final death, but in James being stuck in a repetitive state of limbo. A limbo that even Dante would be impressed with.
What is also incredibly fascinating is the instant brilliance of Cronenberg’s aesthetic and style of filmmaking. It’s impossible to not claim the director is a natural when he’s making his third movie and having as great of an impact as Lars von Trier. Infinity Pool is part Dogville and The House That Jack Built. It’s a continuation of themes but instead of letting his lead relish in being other people, he sends the lead into the abyss of knowing their own true self. If we are worried about “nepo-babies” earning their place, it’s safe to say that Brandon Cronenberg is instantly proving his place.
The other aspect of Infinity Pool is the narrative structure, which becomes James’ own journey of self-discovery, sexual adventure, and succumbing to all of his worst impulses. Leading him down the path is Mia Goth’s Gabi and it is the X star that overtakes all of our attention. There is nobody doing this better than Goth. She is an actress that fascinated us in A Cure for Wellness and deserved award-worthy praise for her work in Pearl. Here she is cutting loose. She’s the temptress and the mad woman laughing at the rain. Skarsgard’s character may be various versions of himself but Infinity Pool changes the minute Gabi introduces herself to James.
For the majority of audiences, there will be too much violence or a challenge to what it all exactly means. Cronenberg still wants his audience to feel confused about what the reality is, he is secretly commenting on his own creations of art, and asking us what we thought it all meant. That’s a sign of intelligent filmmaking. For so much praise, 3 ½ stars may seem odd, but I’m ready to see Infinity Pool a second time, to discover something I missed, or just to dip my toes back into the water. Either way, Brandon Cronenberg is swimming laps around us.
INFINITY POOL IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY JANUARY 27TH, 2023
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady