May 18, 2022
David Cronenberg Teases Viggo Mortensen's Crimes of the Future Story Arc
David Cronenberg teases the philosophical character arc of Viggo Mortensen’s character Saul Tenser in his new body-horror film, Crimes of the Future.

Filmmaker David Cronenberg details the character arc of Viggo Mortensen’s character Saul Tenser in his new film Crimes of the Future. For a film whose trailer famously features the line “surgery is the new sex,” Crimes of the Future is undoubtedly receiving an appropriate level of attention, particularly for its typically Cronenbergian depictions of gore. The Canadian filmmaker has never shone away from violence, having directed some of the most famously gory films, such as The Fly and Scanners. However, this latest offering seems to be causing an even bigger stir than most.

Starring Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, and Kristen Stewart, Crimes of the Future is based on a script Cronenberg originally began production on in 2003. However, it was soon scrapped and wasn’t picked up again until 2021. The film returns to the classic body horror where Cronenberg made his name, with Mortensen and Seydoux starring as surgical performance artists who grow organs inside Tenser’s body, which leads to a new form of human evolution. If that doesn’t prove that it’ll be a gory affair, then Cronenberg’s assumptions that the Cannes audiences will be walking out within five minutes will.

For Cronenberg, however, it’s not only about the gore. In an interview with Deadline, he explains that Tenser’s project is “examining the human condition,” which he sees as the inevitable focus of any art. Cronenberg outlines that Tenser is particularly focused on “his own human condition” and the “potential for creativity that his body seems to be expressing.” You can see the full quote below:

“Well, to the extent that any artist is basically examining the human condition, in one way or another, it’s inevitably the subject of art, one way or another. Even if you have no human figures in your art, that is basically the subject of your art. But Saul Tenser is particularly focused on his own human condition, as most of us are. And in particular this focus is on his body — his own body — and the potential for creativity that his body seems to be expressing. And that’s an interesting inversion of the normal process of artistic expression. That’s the trick of the movie, that aspect.”

This is par for a filmmaker whose work has always explored meanings deeper than its subject matter seems to present. Scanners acts as a poignant exploration of counterculture’s impact on society, while A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, both of which also starred Mortensen, featured distinct religious aspects as well as dissections of the nature of violence. It’s therefore unsurprising that Cronenberg sees Tenser’s story arc as an exploration of the human condition, and his point about inverting the process of artistic expression by turning it in on his own body is a typically profound approach for the film-maker.

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It, therefore, looks as if Crimes of the Future will have plenty to please both body horror fans and those seeking a more philosophical film, although anyone who sees it will no doubt need a strong stomach. While the trailer showed off only a little of what’s in store, it was still full of gruesome imagery, including plenty of incisions, excision, and even a guy with his eyes sewn shut and ears growing out of his forehead. On top of this, Cronenberg has said that it’s not only the first five minutes that will prompt walkouts, as he expects the last 20 minutes will be very hard on people too.

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