At first Mia Goth was unimpressed with the script for Infinity Pool, the latest haunting feature from writer/director Brandon Cronenberg.
That’s because Goth’s character Gabi is initially an unassuming presence but as the actor soon discovered, there was more to her than meets the eye:
“When reading the script, Gabi first came across to me as a sweet, unassuming, nice young lady. I thought ‘okay, maybe I can make something of that’.
“But after the car accident I thought ‘that’s it, that’s the end of her participation in the movie’. I continued reading the script and she wasn’t appearing again so I thought ‘there isn’t much for me here, I’m not doing this’.
“However, I then got to the scene where James is extending his stay and she’s sat in the corner waiting for him – it all clicked and I realised this is where the story begins. I was suddenly taken by her, realising she’s quite impressive actually.
“I was then emailing my agent updates with every page I read as I was just completely stunned at how wild and outrageous this movie was – I just had to do it.”
Goth isn’t the only one who Gabi has made an impression on as the character earned an online fan-base from the first trailer alone.
She also has quite the impact on James (Alexander Skarsgård) who has travelled to the beautiful island of La Tolqa with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) for a holiday.
Following the fateful car accident which exposes the resort’s subculture of hedonism, James abandons his wife to join Gabi’s merry band of reckless criminals.
It really doesn’t take much from Gabi to encourage James to indulge in his darkest fantasies, with Skarsgård believing this is initially down to his character’s narcissism:
“It’s through vanity to begin with – Gabi plays him very well as she’s smart and it really doesn’t take much, just a small compliment and a stroke of the ego.
“After that he will follow Gabi like a hungry dog and as he dives further into that world, it becomes something way more fundamental and deep.
“He’s discovering things about himself that he didn’t know he was capable of which is terrifying but also exhilarating for him.”
As James journeys into Gabi’s world, the film becomes increasingly visceral, featuring heady hallucinatory sequences, blood-soaked moments of violence, and drug-fuelled orgies.
It’s an unusual tone, which Skarsgård neatly sums up: “To me it’s completely unique and it’s so rare to read something that has its own language. I was laughing, deeply disturbed, confused, and intrigued – it was such a wild experience reading it.”
It’s also a rollercoaster of an experience watching it, with the film packed with sex, drugs, and violence – enough to ensure that it earns a solid 18 rating.
None of this concerned the film’s stars though, who emphasise that every moment of extremity has a purpose and isn’t simply there for shock value, with Goth describing these scenes as “necessary for the story [they] were telling”.
Skarsgård adds that the only way the team could pull the film off was by fully committing to its extreme nature: “We talked at length about these sequences in pre-production – how they wanted to shoot them, what story the scenes would tell, what purpose they would have.
“The fact it was going to be so graphic and provocative was something that we were all aware of, but everyone who got excited about this screenplay was very game to do something unconventional.
“None of us wanted to play it safe and do something middle-of-the-road – we had to go all in to pull it off.”
Going all in meant shooting a scene which has been the talk of the internet since word of it first dropped – we are, of course, referring to the infamous handjob which sees James ejaculate on-screen, a rare sight in cinema.
It’s certainly a controversial sequence but one Goth feels is crucial for setting up the relationship between Gabi and James: “It’s a way for her to reveal to him in quite a direct manner what her intentions really are.
“She can exert her power over him, gauge the waters, test his openness to her, and whether he will go on this journey with her. And the fact he is so willing here is all the information Gabi needs to continue with her plans for James.”
The handjob scene isn’t the only one that has caused a stir online as social media has also been dominated by fan-cams of Gabi screaming at James with a gun in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, all whilst sat on a car snacking on fried chicken.
It’s certainly a highlight of Infinity Pool and if you have so far escaped seeing glimpses of that moment online before watching the film, I’d advise you keep it that way as it’s truly spectacular.
Building to the climax, the tension and chaos here is at its highest point, with Goth telling Zavvi she therefore knew she had to throw all that she could at it:
“I knew that it was a big moment in the script but I didn’t necessarily know how big it was going to be until we were there on the day, and I saw the car and all the props like the chicken.
“We just started going for it as it felt like that was the only way something like this was going to work. It wasn’t a scene we rehearsed but we shot it halfway through the shoot so I felt comfortable with the entire crew.
“They felt like family which was important as I was exposing myself in such a way and you really are quite vulnerable there – I had to be okay with it being big and looking ridiculous whilst honing it in too, figuring out what works.
“But we went for it and had a blast – when do you ever get to do something like that? That’s one of the many perks of this job, being thrown into these scenarios that you never would otherwise, and because of that you have to give it your all.”
Which is exactly what Goth does delivering yet another impressive performance – with Pearl also releasing in the UK in 2023 it’s safe to say that she is absolutely slaying the horror scene this year.
However, whilst the film is being marketed as a horror and does feature those elements, Infinity Pool is also a comedy, a sadistic satire of the privileged and wealthy.
It arrives at a time where ‘eat the rich’ stories are dominating our screens with the likes of The White Lotus, Triangle Of Sadness, and even the fourth season of hit Netflix show You exploring these narratives.
Skarsgård wasn’t drawn to this aspect of the movie though, believing there are more exciting layers to uncover within the story:
“People love ‘eat the rich’ stories as it’s exciting to watch these extremely wealthy people be miserable, treating each other and those around them like sh*t. There is something gratifying about that.
“But to me, that narrative can be told in a way where it is low hanging fruit and not very interesting, something we have seen many times before.
“Infinity Pool is more about the journey these characters go on which is a journey inwards looking at what happens to them when they witness their own demise, their own executions.
“They finally get in touch with their more primal sides which they have kept hidden from themselves for years, confronting their own brutality and seeing what they are capable of. I find that more interesting.
“It’s set in this world of wealthy privileged people living in a bubble in a satirical way but I think there’s a lot more to the film than simply saying ‘hey, look at these rich assholes’. That’s just one of its many layers.”
Goth agrees, stating that the ‘eat the rich’ angle isn’t something she even really thought about during shooting: “It’s just not something that I took into account, that element is more there for audiences to observe.
“Like Alex said, it’s more about the psychology of these people, how they play with power, what that looks like – the exploration of rage and sexuality is more appealing.
“These were the themes I was looking at far more than the satirical observation of rich assholes.”
So, whilst the comparisons to The White Lotus (but on acid) may draw you in, just like the character of Gabi herself there is more to Infinity Pool than may initially meet the eye.
And with plenty of layers to uncover, it certainly also invites multiple rewatches, even if that’s just to cackle again and again at Goth screaming at Skarsgård whilst drinking wine directly from the bottle – iconic!