Monday 27 March 2023

Infinity Pool


 Seconds Chances

Infinity Pool
Canada/Croatia/Hungary 2023
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Film Forge

Infinity Pool is director Brandon (son of David) Cronenberg’s third feature length movie and, I have to say, although I’ve only now seen two of his movies, I was a little disappointed in this new one. I’ve not seen Antiviral (yet... will do at some point) but I liked his movie Possessor, quite a bit more than this one, I think.

Now, I have to say that people on Twitter have been all over this one for a while and, it’s not hard to see why because, the released stills with some truly horrible face masks being worn by people are quite striking. And it’s been getting some really good reviews from followers I trust. There’s even been the usual ‘walkouts and fainting in the aisles’ kind of ‘so negative it’s completely positive’ style tales from early screenings. So I was a little puzzled to find that, for all the talk of being incredibly violent and sexy... it’s kinda not really straying too far into either of those terrains.

It is good sci-fi though and it does have a heck of a lot of good stuff going for it so... I think take any negativeness in this review with a pinch of salt. I think there are a couple of things which have maybe swayed my view of the film and let me get those out the way first, or at least qualify them to my readers... because I really wanted to like this movie and I happen to think that people like Brandon Cronenberg are cinematic visionaries who deserve to own the future of cinema.

I think I’ve either become too jaded by things I see in movies these days or, quite possibly, it’s not me and there’s just nothing new under the sun. That last shouldn’t be a problem for me... because when is it ever? But maybe my expectations of this writer/director at this point are a bit too high and it may be that I return to this film in ten years time able to appreciate it more for what it is, rather than for something it isn’t.

Secondly, it seems to wear some of those influences on its sleeve, not by dint of the fact that the plot (which I won’t get into here because I don’t want to post spoilers on this one) seems like it’s inspired by things I think I can easily see... but because, in this case, the film I’m absolutely convinced was at least a partial influence on this one, John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (the one starring Rock Hudson, remember?) is just not one of those films I can personally bond with. It might be something to do with the fact that upper classes can pay their way through any horrible accident or decision with no thought or consequence to the pain and misery they create for others they use to scapegoat their ‘adult playground’ attitudes but... yeah, this is not an area of cinema I particularly enjoy myself. Although I know many people love Seconds so, if there’s one thing I think I can safely say it’s that, Infinity Pool will at least have a lot of fans. Especially in the younger crowds, I suspect, who might not have been exposed to so many similar movies yet.

A special shout out goes, also, to the always incredible Mia Goth, who’s partying attitude throughout this somewhat mirrors, in my opinion, the psychological trajectory that Rock Hudson goes through in the earlier film. Okay... all the actors in this movie are amazing. Asides from the amazing Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård (always very reliable) giving amazing performances, they are backed up by a load of other great performers like Cleopatra Coleman and Thomas Kretschmann. So all very strong actors in this film and, if you’re going to do science fiction of this internalised yet ostentatious manner, you need reliable performances like these to help build and retain credibility.

Asides from this you have the director’s handling of the camera and how it does and, more importantly, how it doesn’t reveal things. The movie starts in darkness with just two voices until curtains are pulled back in a hotel room. This is followed by a very dizzying montage of swirling, 360 degree horizontal rotation segments which, frankly, annoyed me almost as much as the annoying fast edits in the more hallucinogenic sequences of the film. Then I realised that this stuff was all done to deliberately disorient the viewer to maybe stop the brain box from kicking in quite so fast on the more obvious moments in the plot.

And another tactic the director uses in a similar manner is to repeat those obvious moments ad infinitum so that, even though you probably already know what’s going on, it’s rendered immaterial as a significant plot turn by a certain way through the running time. So, there’s a point early on, without giving any of the plot away, where an actor can either be playing character A or he could be playing, let’s call it character AB. I made a choice about what an obvious sleight of hand switch on identity was pretty early on but, this occurrence, like a series of Russian dolls being opened (maybe as represented by urns holding a dead character’s ashes, in the case of this movie), is then repeated where, well, it just doesn’t really matter anymore. Only to Skarsgård’s character who, to be fair, is obviously haunted by his own lack of ability to differentiate what has happened right to the very end of the film.  

That being said, while the end of the movie is deliberately vague and attempting to be haunting... it kinda felt a little too much like a cop out to me, it has to be said. Nothing wrong with it... I just felt like it wasn’t a strong enough ending myself. Like if you’d been conducting a science experiment and got a result which you didn’t really care about either way. And, in terms of entertainment levels on the obvious things it’s more or less being sold on... I didn’t think there was that much sex or violence as it’s been hyped for (put this against any 1970s or 80s B movie exploitation movie and this one would look decidedly low key and out of place, it has to be said). Not that this is particularly what the director was going for, to be fair but then, why have so many people concentrated on this aspect?

At the end of the day, I was sadly just not impressed by Infinity Pool and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone unless they were going purely to see how the camera can capture things in a beautiful way and throw it around to create certain emotional responses (of sorts, I kinda didn’t feel much either, to be fair). This doesn’t mean it’s not a good film, by the way... quite the contrary. It just means I didn’t respond to it with the same level of appreciation that I suspect a lot of good people will. So lets see what happens and I’ll take another look at it in another decade, if I’m still around.

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