Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future: the Inadequacy of American Narrative Film by Devdutt Trivedi
In his interview with Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni equates the psychological with the physiological which he equates with the plastic. Antonioni’s comment represents the equation between the exaggerated colours in his film Red Desert and their non-psychological origin. Instead of the color commenting on the protagonist Guiliana, color is instead is a psyche in itself free from commenting on the character but instead creating a unique quality of attention. Mani Kaul often spoke about in Sangeet Samay Saar and how the psychological state of mind i.e. of a raga, produced in the book is represented by the first three chapters that describe a delivery of a baby from the mother’s womb i.e. the physiological.
David Cronenberg’s oeuvre uses the psychological order to elaborate on human reality as physiological. Cronenberg uses the symbolic nature of psychoanalysis to deal with bodies occupying space that should create intensities. However, as it turns out, in Cronenberg’s work bodies suggest the possibility of an intensity but are instead only symbolic to forward storytelling.
This creates several problems: the discourse, especially in his latest film Crimes of the Future, is around the organism and its relationship to interiority.Cronenberg’s script uses these theme that finds its logical resultant utterance in the cheesy line “inner beauty”!
The opening sequence reverses Freud by having the mother kill the baby. Perhaps Cronenberg means to reverse psychoanalytical symbols into indexes; that are physical proof of intensities without being intense. However, this anarchic act only seems episodic and does not have a larger commentary on which the director builds.
The problem with the symbolic is that image, sound and dialogue in cinema are all symbolic. Therefore a sudden switch to an index from a territorialised sign i.e. a symbol does not seem to be clearly thought out. The characters are performance artists, and the exploration of interior intensity is by replacing the interior organs. The discourse on organs and the organism replaces the borrowed discourse (from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus) and makes it return back to….psychoanalysis!
The solution to this conundrum is to structure language into the symptomatic of the symbolic. For example, a voice over describing an image of a shoe as “this is a shoe” replaces the logic of representation with the voice serving as the Outside to the sound and image.
Gilles Deleuze states that this voice is replacing the symbolic nature of the utterance: so that it serves as an empty intensity that has no symbolisation. Therefore the spectator views the replaced sign with language to reach matter (image and sound) relating to a degree of intensity without a subject .
Unfortunately, Cronenberg has no such pursuits to make the symbolic nature of the climactic script move towards any de-centering.Instead, Cronenberg reinforces the subject between the character and the spectator’s desire without creating the psychoanalytical field (the Lacanian lozenge ◊ ) that breaks representation and creates experience.
Devdutt Trivedi is aMumbai based film scholar & faculty.