There are film directors who become adjectives. Whose work is so important, influential and revealing that it is used to describe. Everyone knows what we mean when someone says something is ‘very Cronenberg’. David Cronenberg’s universe is so unique that there is no room for doubt. jobs as videodrome, scanners either The fly are turning points in the cinema of recent decades. Works that go beyond any industry norm, that swim against the tide, that mix the terrifying with the human, technology with the body, the sick with the beautiful, the future with the present.
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At 79 years old, Cronenberg has just received the Donostia Award at the San Sebastián Zinemaldia Festival and is already finalizing the details of what will be his new film. Gone is the moment when he thought to retire. It was just before his producer convinced him to shoot crimes of the future, his latest film that arrives this Friday at the cinema. “I wasn’t sure if he wanted to do more movies, maybe write another novel, but he didn’t feel like making movies. He came and told me that if he had read this script that we tried to do 20 years ago and we never succeeded. I told him that he didn’t think it was relevant now because technology and society had changed, but he told me to read it again because he thought it was more relevant than ever. So I read it and said, ‘It’s true, it’s really good and it’s still very relevant,’” says the director.
The film talks about a future where the planet suffers from a climatic emergency and eating plastic can be a solution. Seeing how “the planet is more destroyed than it was 20 years ago” was one of the reasons why he wanted to do crimes of the future, but he makes it clear that he does not consider himself “a political filmmaker in that sense.” “But that’s what made me say ‘maybe I should do another movie,’ and I was basically seduced by my producer, well we seduced each other,” he adds.
His passion for science and technology comes from a child, when he was “the typical crazy about science”. “I really thought that when I grew up I would be a scientist, not a filmmaker. And then when I started to get interested in writing, I thought maybe I’d be like Isaac Asimov, who was a science fiction writer, but he was also a scientist, and then I could do both. So it has been a natural thing. That was the way he explored the world as a child, and as I got older, I had the same fascination with science, and our understanding of what it is to be human is the foundation of that.”
As a fan of technological advances, his position on platforms, which he defends as a future that is inevitable to oppose, is not surprising. “I like how things have developed, because I haven’t been to the movies for many years. I prefer to experience the cinema at home. I think that technology has its own evolution and that the combination of COVID and Netflix has changed cinema forever. I really believe there is no going back. So I think there will be some theaters that show big action movies like superhero movies and kids movies, and people who like those movies will go, but there won’t be many theaters like that. There will be some small theaters that will show some arthouse movies, but they will have a lot of trouble competing with streaming,” he analyzes.
Far from defending cinemas as temples, he believes that this vision is a nostalgic view that he does not share: “The idea of a community church, of the experience of a thousand people watching a movie together, is an interesting experience, but I don’t think it is the best movie experience. I know a lot of people think that way about the past, but I think they’re idealizing it, because having a thousand people eating popcorn and looking at their phones doesn’t seem like such a good experience, really. So I think streaming is the future. I really believe that it is and that it is still cinema. I don’t think it’s the death of cinema, but it could be the death of the old way of experiencing cinema.”
The experience of a thousand people watching a movie together is an interesting experience, but I don’t think it’s the best movie experience
— Film director
Cronenberg’s films have jumped from theaters to the university. They have been studied and analyzed by sociology, and that seems “very nice” to him, because it means that his work “is interesting enough to be analyzed.” He believes that this interest comes from his search for “an existentialist understanding of the human condition”, and clarifies: “That is, the human body is what we are. There is no life after death. I’m an atheist, so then it seems natural to me that the body is the first basis of research in the world, and once you start doing that, you start becoming a scientist, when you start trying to understand the complexity of the human body. So that’s where my fascination with body science really comes from. And of course, when you are a filmmaker, what you photograph the most is the human body. You are photographing the face, the body… so it seems natural to me that a filmmaker is obsessed with the human body. I don’t understand filmmakers who aren’t.”
Although his work is often divided into dualities, in conflicting terms, such as the beautiful and the sick, the body and the machine, Cronenberg refuses to see everything in such a simplified way. He doesn’t believe that crimes of the future be a dystopia, but not a utopia either. He doesn’t think “in terms of binary”, but he thinks it’s clear that the panorama offered by his new film “is quite dark”, but “at the same time you have these people struggling for understanding, struggling for clarity, trying to find a way of making art that means something”. He defines it as a compressed version of what he believes life to be, where “there are many beautiful moments, there are very shocking things, but there is still the possibility of love.”