Words by Sam Moore
In many ways, The Fly feels like the archetypal Cronenberg film: the intersection between science and horror, the uncontrollable changes of the human body.
More than that, these transformations are shown to be explicitly monstrous, as a hot Jeff Goldblum becomes a grotesque man/fly hybrid. But while these ideas recur throughout Cronenberg’s filmography, the body horror itself isn’t always horrific.
Throughout his career, the changes that his characters go through often lead them towards a kind of liberation. The differences are far from utopian, but the way that his changed characters collide with one another regularly reveals an undercurrent of deeply earnest romance.
Cronenberg’s latest film, Crimes Of The Future, focuses on performance art collaborators and lovers Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux). Caprice talks about what she and Saul “unleash” in each other, as both artists and partners.
It’s this feeling of something being released that acts as a catalyst for Cronenberg’s unique brand of visceral, unsettling romanticism.
And this romance is always earnest, never turning into something monstrous itself. Caprice cutting into Saul to remove the organs created by his accelerated evolution is an act of real intimacy.
The other defining aspect of Cronenberg’s romanticism is the fact that these relationships are often queer. With his cropped, white hair and the complicated relationship he has with his body, Saul feels strongly coded as a trans-masculine character, with Caprice playing a key role in helping him through a continual transition.
One of the first things she says to him is that there’s “a new hormone in your bloodstream”. In many ways, Cronenberg’s approach to queerness keeps evolving: a mirror held up to his characters.
In this month’s edition of our free digital magazine The Lowdown, we analyse the complicated romances of Cronenberg’s films and how twisted ideas of sex and love continue to infect his latest work.