David Cronenberg is a Canadian cult movie institution. A master of body horror and the strange, his filmography, which includes The Fly, Videodrome and Rabid have inspired a whole generation of filmmakers. Though no one has been more inspired than his own son, Brandon Cronenberg. In 2012 came the younger Cronenberg’s debut, Antiviral, which demonstrated an abundance of talent. Then in 2020 his sophomore project, Possessor, startled audiences with its brain-bending tale of science-fiction and self. Both proved that the director had inherited his father’s flourish for both storytelling and confronting visuals. Having already proved himself a force to be reckoned with, the hype for his third feature, Infinity Pool, has been fierce. Infinity Pool received its World Premiere at Sundance and is an early front-runner for most twisted film of the year.
Starring Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth, Infinity Pool is yet further evidence of Brandon Cronenberg’s talent as a storyteller. The plot joins author James (Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) who are holidaying on a private resort in Li Tolqa. Their destination of choice is deemed unsafe for tourists and so James and Em spend their days within the confines of the resort. As the monotony of their enforced seclusion begins to set in, they meet Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert). The two are regulars to the country and encourage James and Em to risk a jaunt outside the safety gates. They agree, but after enjoying a lazy day of sunbathing on the beach, night falls and events get weird…
As Infinity Pool begins there is little to signpost Cronenberg’s usual style, leaving the viewer questioning whether he has gone mainstream. The vista’s are bright and sunny, lingering shots of the natural beauty of the picturesque holiday destination forming the bulk of the early shots. They set up the idyllic beauty of the location and lure the audience into a state of calm. As with all of Cronenberg’s work thus far, this move is intentional. He wants the viewer to be swept away by the romanticism so that when the curtain eventually drops, it falls with a bang. Even though it takes a while to manifest itself, once the ‘Cronenberg reveal’ occurs, the real fun of Infinity Pool begins.
Whereas both Antiviral and Possessor could be classed as slow and deliberate, Infinity Pool is a much punchier and pacier story. The narrative moves at a steady pace, with little instances of still. There is a perpetual forward motion that drives the film; the audience, like James, are dragged along for the journey. Once more, ideas of self are explored. The concept of knowing oneself is front and centre, though Cronenberg has found an entirely new way to dissect it. Infinity Pool also examines the rich and poor divide, James and company are part of the exclusive elite, Li Tolqa and its people impoverished. The film demonstrates the power of money and how it corrupts those on both sides in vicious and grotesque ways. It analyses one’s ability to change, whilst also taking a shot at gender dynamics.
Alexander Skarsgård continues to prove himself to be an actor unafraid of a challenge. His textbook handsome and athletic good looks would afford him a career of high-profile box-office conveyor-belt movies. He could easily slot into the Marvel machine, the world of fluffy rom-coms, or exaggerated action movies, and yet time and time again he opts for the road less travelled. His work in The Northman last year was incredible and his performance in Infinity Pool is another career highlight. As James, Skarsgård has to access complex emotions, whilst also participating in some bizarre situations. His commitment to the film and character is immediately obvious and his determination helps to sell some of the wilder moments of the film.
Opposite Skarsgård is the ever entertaining Mia Goth. Her work in Ti West’s X and Pearl has seen her starpower rise, and when coupled with her work in Infinity Pool, it is certain that she is about to go stratospheric. Somewhere in her DNA, Gabi shares a kinship with Pearl, but she is her own devilish creation. It is Gabi who guides James down the dark path and her insidious manipulation is superbly handled by Goth. Whenever the pair are on screen together, the atmosphere between them crackles. There is something magical about watching two actors perform in something that they love, and both Goth and Skarsgård’s gleeful grins point to them having a ball with Infinity Pool.
From a technical viewpoint, Infinity Pool is more of Cronenberg’s unadulterated perfection. As the story moves away from the mundane, the visuals open up and lock into Cronenberg’s signature brand of beautiful bizarro. Possessor had breathtaking edits during the ‘possession’ process and there is similar work in Infinity Pool. Driven by an excess of drugs this time, the hallucinationary content birthed on-screen is remarkable. A swirl of colours, sound and body parts; this extended sequence is simultaneously alluring and repelling, sensual, and gnarled. The editing here is exceptional. Editor James Vandewater giddily teases the viewer’s senses, inserting plenty of “did I just see what I think I did” moments. Infinity Pool has plenty more shocks and thrills in store, Cronenberg pushing the limits of titillation to create his sexiest movie yet.
Infinity Pool builds on ideas, both narratively and technically, given by Antiviral and Possessor, taking them into a wild new direction. With searing visuals and committed performances, every weird and wonderful second of Infinity Pool sizzles. Delightfully horrific and beautifully depraved, Brandon Cronenberg has achieved yet another tantalising triumph of the macabre.
A heady mixture of excess, lack of morality, and eye-catching beauty, Infinity Pool is yet another win for Brandon Cronenberg. Three out of three is an astonishing achievement for a young filmmaker and presents further proof that the future of the Cronenberg name is in very capable hands.
Infinity Pool arrives in UK cinemas on 24th March 2023.
This review first appeared on THN.