Infinity Pool review – Mia Goth electrifies in a nightmarish thriller

·4-min read

Earlier this month saw the UK release of Pearl, a prequel to Ti West’s retro-horror X, starring and co-written by the extraordinary Mia Goth. A uniquely arresting screen presence (check out the final-frame smile of Pearl for proof), Goth is back again in another jaw-dropping role that positively fizzes with playfully dangerous pizzaz. She may take second billing to Swedish star Alexander Skarsgård in this Canadian-Hungarian-Croatian co-production but make no mistake – it’s her anarchic energy that drives the deliciously outre and satirical third feature from writer-director Brandon Cronenberg.

“Where are we?” asks James (Skarsgård), staring out from the terrace of an exclusive hotel towards an anonymously blissful beach on a remote holiday island. A minor author whose debut novel, The Variable Sheath, owed its existence to his media mogul father-in-law, James has been blocked for the last six years. These days, his wealthy wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), can’t tell if he’s asleep or awake, particularly within the dreamy confines of this chic resort – a white palace in a poor country, where the peace of the super-rich is broken occasionally by local protesters, largely kept at bay by barbed wire fences.

James has apparently come here for “inspiration”, and he’s both flattered and flabbergasted when a fellow guest, actor Gabi (Goth), tells him: “I loved your book”. Soon, she and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert), are taking James and Em beyond the safety of the resort compound to more remote locales, where sausages are fried and a cocktail of semen and piss is spilled upon the land. When James runs down a farmer while driving home drunk, Gabi insists: “No police… This isn’t a civilised country.” But the next day, James finds himself in custody, where the local eye-for-an-eye justice system has a bizarre get-out clause; a chance for wealthy customers to be “doubled” – to witness and live through their own proxy death.

Brandon Cronenberg​'s work is growing and mutating in terrifically sardonic fashion

“Do you worry they got the wrong man?” asks another carelessly moneyed guest. That’s a question (echoing a central theme of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige) that rings throughout Cronenberg’s film – a Dostoevskian tale of doppelganger paranoia, told with a stylish cinematic relish reminiscent of Gaspar Noé or Nicolas Winding Refn. Just as wealth and poverty clash on this island, so divided souls do battle here, locked in masked struggle with themselves as the rainy season draws ever nearer.

As with its predecessor Possessor, Infinity Pool tackles issues of transferred identities with a sticky tactility that keeps things visceral rather than cerebral. From the opening scenes in which cinematographer Karim Hussain turns the world upside down while Tim Hecker’s woozy score thumps and groans, it’s clear we’re in for a heady experience. Like the Hotel California, James can check in any time he likes but he can never leave – whether through force of circumstance or his own twisted volition. No wonder an increasingly traumatised Em asks: “Is this a dream?”, noting: “It would make more sense.”

Certainly, there’s a nightmarish logic at work, underpinning the oedipal contortions and hallucinogenic hardcore visions that gradually overwhelm our antihero. But there’s also a jet-black streak of Buñuelian bourgeois-baiting comedy, evidenced most hilariously after James finally loses his rag when faced with a gunpoint reading of a terrible review of his terrible novel. He may be OK with the killing of innocents, but this is a step too far. Ha!

At the centre of it all is Goth, who looks set to swallow the screen whole. Whether she’s slyly enticing James to follow his own ego into her arms or screaming like an avenging angel from the bonnet of an open-topped car, her ability to shift from the understated to the unhinged is breathtaking. Dan Martin’s squelchy “special makeup and figurative effects” may keep the audience on their toes, but it’s Goth who provides the real fireworks.

As for Cronenberg, whose father, David, pioneered the body-horror genre with films such as Rabid, Videodrome and The Fly, he continues to forge his own path, building upon the promise of his underrated 2012 debut feature Antiviral to create a body of work that is growing and mutating in terrifically sardonic fashion. It may not be for everyone, but I dived deep into Infinity Pool – twice – and enjoyed the hell out of the experience.