For decades, David Cronenberg has cemented his reputation as a shock filmmaker, with images of bursting heads, disgusting parasites or pulsating organs. In his latest film "Crimes of the Future", which the award-winning director presented at the Cannes Film Festival last year, things got horribly bloody with body modifications and organs that had been cut out.
The Canadian, who turns 80 this Wednesday (March 15), has countless fans, including US actress Kristen Stewart – one of the “Crimes of the Future” stars alongside Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux. She enjoys Cronenberg's morbid images, Stewart explained at the festival. "Every single gaping, bleeding, throbbing, weird frame, every bit of injury, every bruise in his films - leaves me speechless. It draws you in and it just never puts me off."
The science fiction drama tells of a dystopian future in which people can use technology to change their bodies and grow new organs without feeling pain. Cronenberg wrote his first sci-fi screenplay since his cyber thriller "eXistenZ" (1999) about the invention of a computer game with a bioport that transports people to artificial worlds via umbilical cord. The Berlinale honored him with the Silver Bear.
Cronenberg had previously implemented the film genre of body horror brilliantly in the thriller "Die Fliege" (1986). In it, a young researcher (Jeff Goldblum) mutates into a monstrous insect creature, half human, half fly, after a failed gene experiment.
Cronenberg's early worlds revolved around sex, fetishism, and the encroachment of technology on human life. The scenarios were intriguing, repulsive and controversial, as in "Shivers," his first commercial success in 1975. It was about phallic worms that infest people in a high-rise apartment complex and turn them into sex-crazed killing machines .
At the latest after "Scanners" (1981) and the Stephen King film adaptation "Dead Zone - The Assassin" (1983), Hollywood became aware of the Canadian. "The Fly" (1986) was followed by Jeremy Irons in a double role in the horror film "The Lovebirds" (1988) and the novel adaptation "Naked Lunch" (1991).
criticism and awards
Opinions were divided on "Crash" (1996), the film adaptation of J.G. Ballard's novel about people who get their sexual kick from traffic accidents and disfiguring injuries. "Repulsive pornography", judged some critics, in England the film was not allowed to run in cinemas. This was seen more calmly at the Cannes Film Festival: Cronenberg was awarded the Special Jury Prize for his "boldness and originality".
With the leading actor Viggo Mortensen in the revenge thriller "A History of Violence" (2005), the director turned away from horror, but continued to focus on horror and violence. Mortensen also starred in Eastern Promises in 2007, about the Russian mafia in London. The drama "A Dark Desire" revolved around Sigmund Freund and Carl Gustav Jung. Michael Fassbender and Mortensen played the fathers of psychoanalysis in this character study. In 2012 he brought the bestseller of the same name by author Don DeLillo to the screen with "Cosmopolis". With Robert Pattinson in the leading role, it tells the story of a Wall Street speculator on a foray through Manhattan. In 2014, he directed the satirical drama Maps to the Stars, starring Julianne Moore.
Cronenberg has not yet been nominated for an Oscar, but there is no shortage of honors. In 2018, the Venice Film Festival awarded him a Golden Lion of Honor for his life's work. Festival director Alberto Barbera praised him as one of the "most daring and stimulating directors of all time". Last fall, Cronenberg accepted the honorary award "Donostia" at the San Sebastián Film Festival in Spain.
In the past, the director joked in his acceptance speech in Spain that he had always seen lifetime achievement awards as an indication that enough films had been made and should now be stopped. But now he sees that more as an incentive to keep working.
The film "The Shrouds" (in German: shrouds) is the next project for this year. Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux are set to star in the supernatural thriller. The story revolves around a man who struggles to get over the death of his wife. He is looking for a way to get in touch with the deceased. For him, this is a very personal project with autobiographical traits, said the director in San Sebastian.
Cronenberg's second wife, Carolyne Cronenberg, died in 2017 at the age of 66 after a long marriage. The couple had two children together, the director brought another daughter into the marriage. All three are in the film business. In 2012, son Brandon made his directorial debut with the sci-fi horror film "Antiviral" in Cannes. With the shocker "Infinity Pool", which premiered at the Sundance Festival in January, he remained true to his father's proven genre.