Crimes of the Future movie review: absolutely barking but ultimately satisfying

Crimes of the Future movie review: absolutely barking but ultimately satisfying

In David Cronenberg’s new thriller, a youngster is punished for having a wayward appetite. Brecken (Sozos Sotiris) has a taste for plastic objects, specifically the kind of plastic objects found in a bathroom, which doesn’t sit well with his mother, Djuna (Lihi Kornowski). It’s a tale as old as time: boy eats bin, boy gets murdered by mum.

What was 79-year-old Cronenberg thinking, when he wrote this sci-fi yarn? One thing’s for sure, he was thinking. Like Cronenberg’s greatest works (Dead Ringers; Crash; eXistenZ), Crimes of the Future is packed with brilliant ideas. The one, here, that offers most food for thought: humans fuelled by non-biodegradable waste may hold the key to saving our planet.

Cronenberg never has trouble attracting pretty young (or old) things. And on paper at least, his cast, including Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux, are to die for. Mortensen and Seydoux are lovers/performance artists, the physically frail Saul and healthy Caprice, who will eventually come into close contact with Brecken’s dad (Scott Speedman).

Lea Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart (Serendipity Point Films)
Lea Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart (Serendipity Point Films)

When we first meet them, Saul and Caprice are living in a dystopic city where the general population have become inured to pain and even internal body parts are monitored by the state. Self-styled rebels Saul and Caprice make a literal show out of the fact that Saul’s insides are a law unto themselves (his organs are evolving at a rate of knots, though the e-word is semi-taboo). Via a futuristic gear stick, Caprice uses robotic arms to slice into her boyfriend’s stomach and display what’s inside. Phoarrr!

Kristen Stewart is Timlin, an apparently menial bureaucrat, aroused by the couple’s work. As well as reciting futuristic dictums (“surgery is the new sex”), Timlin seems to have the hots for Saul. She’s keen to kiss him. On the mouth. Which leaves our hero all at sea. As he tells Timlin, “I’m not very good at the old sex”. Before long, we find out what Timlin’s very good at. Clue: it’s not sex.

All of which sounds like nonsense but I’m a real Cronenberg fan and he always prioritises atmosphere over plot. If you’re freaked out by body horror and/or don’t enjoy languid narratives that recycle noir tropes, you’ll probably hate every second of Crimes of the Future. But Brecken and Timlin are such good characters. And Stewart’s febrile delivery makes every scene she’s in feel urgent. Which is satisfying on so many levels.

Her Twilight co-star, Robert Pattinson, had a blast with the prostate-centric dialogue in Cronenberg’s 2012 wooz-feste, Cosmopolis. It’s as if Stewart and Pattinson are having a competition. Which of them can say the weirdest thing in an indie movie? It’s damn close, but I’d say Stewart now has the edge.

107mins, cert 18

In cinemas