We are only three features into Brandon Cronenberg’s directorial career and he has already revealed himself to be a benefactor of cinema’s most visceral genre: body horror. Much like Cronenberg Sr, he has a knack for making bizarrely graphic scenes appear an inextricable necessity to his films. After the success of paranoid sci-fi thriller Possessor (2020), it’s not surprising that Infinity Pool (2023), playing in the Berlinale Special, came pre-packaged in anticipation.
Cronenberg’s love for body horror may be an inherited directorial trait but his approach to gore is unique; preferring psychedelic flashing visuals over the raw imagery of his father. And while Infinity Pool is yet another in a recent trend of films with a running commentary on the abundance of the 1%, Infinity Pool’s commitment to literal grotesque displays of wealth distinguishes it from the pack.
Despite cloning being well-worn terrain for the sci-fi genre, Cronenberg brings a hitherto unseen use of the trope as a get-out-of-capital-punishment-free card. Pairing this with the grotesque violence of the rich who feel no consequences for their actions, this trope ensures the audience feels no desire to take part in the unfolding debauchery.
The hedonistic world of Infinity Pool allows Brandon Cronenberg to fully revel in distortions of the body and what better scene to disturb than an orgy? Cronenberg succeeds in turning lust and indulgence into a car crash of increasingly unnatural scenes we cannot look away from.
The limited marketing for Infinity Pool, which consisted of Mia Goth walking Alexander Sarsgard in on a leash, worked wonders on this unhinged bisexual. I couldn’t wait to watch as this century’s scream queen dommed Skarsgard — emotionally, physically and intellectually. What I hadn’t predicted was Goth dominating every actor she shared a scene with. Luckily for Skarsgard, playing the creatively limp sub, this pairing works a treat.
After Goth’s performance in Pearl, I didn’t think her acting could get anymore deranged. Clearly with Cronenberg it can. One can only hope Goth is cast in Brandon’s next (sure to be oozing) release, or perhaps has already been introduced to David.
Brandon Cronenberg may have already garnered an audience for his kaleidoscopic take on body horror, but he also continuously flexes his world-building skills. In Possessor, he shows an urban sprawl through hints of a brutalist skyline and the minutiae of drab office halls. Infinity Pool delivers more of a dystopian setting that feels separate enough from any country we know but close enough to the brutal dictatorships of Slavic history to fill us with unease. If you’re going to comment on injustices of the elite few, Cronenberg understands you must have a corrupt state that allows this behaviour.
To say I loved this film would be an incorrect assessment. I left dizzyingly repulsed by the actions of the wealthy and I’m still not completely certain of everything I witnessed. But I am certain that Infinity Pool succeeds in questioning opulence and creating a disgusting show of privilege, a world where faeces is the only bodily function left off screen.