David Cronenberg has fittingly created his own franchise through his bodily functions instead of making sequels to his own films: Infinity Pool is the latest film from his son Brandon Cronenberg, and it’s undeniable that he came out of David’s balls. Like father, like son… Brandon’s new film is a hallucinatory descent into hell.
Alexander Skarsgård plays James Foster, a writer who has one published novel to his name and not much else of note. He lucked out and married the rich Em (Cleopatra Coleman), who is the daughter of a big publisher. They are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation in the fictional island of La Tolqa, where they soon meet another couple, Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert). Soon enough they are sucked into the hedonistic world of the super wealthy, where any consequences of your behaviour seemingly only have a price tag attached.
The script from Brandon Cronenberg is often hilarious, something he most certainly learned from his father: no matter how messed up what you show on screen is, you have to get the audience to laugh with you. The whole thing plays out like The White Lotus, but as if written by Franz Kafka after a bad batch of LSD. Thomas Kretschmann plays the police commander who runs the local precinct that this gang of hedonists keep ending up at, and each subsequent visit becomes increasingly ridiculous.
After the one-two punch of last year’s X and Pearl, Mia Goth might even top her previous genre fare with her turn here. After getting the novelty of her using her native posh British accent, you get some memorable line readings in an almost babyish howl, like “People. Of. The. BUS!”. No actress can touch her in genre films at the moment, and with the third in her trilogy with Ti West, MaXXXine, currently in production, Goth doesn’t seem to want to leave the genre world for more “worthy” films anytime soon. Skarsgård can switch from alpha to beta male within the same scene, giving viewers a stunning performance that continues his hot streak of interesting work.
For those faint of heart or of a prudish nature, my advice is that you should probably stay away from Infinity Pool. Within 20 minutes you already have a literal cum shot from Skarsgård alongside some casual blood and vomit. The film becomes increasingly strange… there is a psychedelic orgy sequence, plenty of murder, home invasions, men behaving like dogs, and perhaps the scariest movie masks since Jack Lint’s baby mask in Brazil.
The satirical social commentary on the rich is nastier than anything in The Menu or the truly abysmal Triangle of Sadness. It understands how the super-wealthy can buy themselves out of any circumstances, but money can’t buy you out of what it’s doing to your soul. It probably helps that Papa Cronenberg has always had an understanding of power dynamics of who actually has power and how they use it to control.
Father and son certainly have similarities in their themes and stories, but there is some notable differences in their approaches. The performances are far more exaggerated than the deliberated stilted and monotone characterisations of David’s films. Infinity Pool and Brandon Cronenberg’s previous film, Possessor, are more visually colorful and expressive than David Cronenberg’s drab clinical worlds. It will be interesting to see how Brandon approaches his next project, a TV adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes. David Cronenberg perfectly blended Ballard’s prose with his cinematic style in his highly controversial 1996 adaptation of Ballard’s Crash.
He and Ballard have a similar clinical approach to storytelling, which is probably due to their respective science backgrounds, while Brandon doesn’t have a science background.
Infinity Pool is the first great film of 2022, and will undoubtably end up being one of the best films of the year. Cronenberg has created a White Lotus for the real sickos out there, and if you willing to buy the ticket, take the ride—you shouldn’t be disappointed. There has been a lot of discussion about “Nepo-Babies” in the press and online lately, but he seems to be one of the good ones.
Infinity Pool is out in UK cinemas April 24th, the other recent Mia Goth horror masterpiece Pearl should still being playing theatres so perhaps a Goth double bill?