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Creator: David Cronenberg
The Franz Kafka of film.
David Cronenberg is a Canadian film director (from Toronto, specifically).
His early works include Scanners
, the remake of The Fly (1986)
(starring Jeff Goldblum
), The Brood
, the film version of The Dead Zone
, and the film adaptation of William S. Burroughs
' Naked Lunch
His Signature Style
used to focus on Body Horror
and Fan Disservice
devices, with the occasional Mind Screw
(especially making use of Through the Eyes of Madness
), but his more recent works, such as Spider
, A History of Violence
, and Eastern Promises
, tend toward less visceral and (relatively) subtler means of disturbing the audience. If anything, his works can be described as transgressive, pretty much universally forcing you out of your comfort zone to deal with the topics he puts on film.
In late '70s/early '80s he often ran afoul of Canadian film review boards
(in most of Canada, film ratings are assigned by government agencies at the provincial level), as some went so far as to ban his films in their jurisdictions. Cronenberg's animosity towards censorship ("Censors tend to do what only psychotics do: they confuse reality with illusion.") and the persecution of artists is a recurring theme in his work (eXistenZ
being a prominent example, also inspired by his friend Salman Rushdie).
Frequently casts actors Robert Silverman (as in eXistenZ
, The Brood
), Les Carlson (The Fly
, The Dead Zone
) and Viggo Mortensen
(A History Of Violence
, Eastern Promises
, and A Dangerous Method
). All of his films from The Brood
onwards were scored by Howard Shore
(with the exception of The Dead Zone
, which was scored by Michael Kamen). He's recently begun working regularly with Robert Pattinson
, Map to the Stars
He has also done a bit of acting, including a prominent role in the Clive Barker
and a guest-villain role on Alias
, as well as a somewhat inexplicable cameo in Jason X
Mr. Cronenberg's first novel, Consumed
, is due out in September 2014.
Despite the dark content of his films, he's apparently a really nice guy in person
This director's work in general provides examples of:
- Bio Punk: Most of his work are forays into this genre.
- Shivers, where a scientist accidentally creates a sexually-transmitted Puppeteer Parasite, causing in turn a Zombie Apocalypse of rape zombies.
- Rabid, where an experimental skin graft creates a sort of Bio Punk vampire, whose victims all become rabid zombies and attack Montreal.
- The Brood, where a revolutionary psychiatric method results in hideous bodily mutations.
- Scanners, where a pharmacological error creates a Bizarre Baby Boom of socially-maladjusted, creepy psychics.
- Videodrome, where warring ideologies use communications technology to mutate viewers into monstrous pawns.
- Naked Lunch is Bio Punk via The Beat Generation, with sentient typewriters, giant bugs, and monsters who give you tremendous creativity in exchange for blowjobs.
- eXistenZ, where genetically-engined amphibians are used to create Organic Technology video game hardware.
- The Fly (1986), where a failed teleportation experiment fuses Jeff Goldblum and... well, a fly.
- Body Horror: Cronenberg specializes in a genre he calls venereal horror, dealing with infection, diseases and transformation of the flesh.
- Canada, Eh?: Cronenberg's films are often set in his hometown, Toronto, which he naturally portrays quite realistically. A realistic Montreal crops up occasionally, too. His 1986 remake of The Fly is shot in the downtown core of Toronto, and several prominent stores are visible during some of the scenes (such as Toronto City Hall, and, when Brundle walks down the street eating a chocolate bar, he passes the most random places.)
- Daylight Horror: Cronenberg did this quite a bit in his early days with movies such as Shivers and Rabid which depicted horrific scenes in well-lit buildings or even daytime. For instance, the subway is pretty bright.
- Fan Disservice: The torture/murder channel in Videodrome, the disturbing fetishization of car crashes in Crash, and the borderline violent stairway sex scene in A History of Violence come to mind.
- Lovecraftian Superpower:
- The Brood. While Psychoplasmics isn't necessarily a superpower, the ability to birth homunculi from your traumatic memories who end up subconsciously doing your bidding might be considered useful, if fucked up.
- Scanners are technically "just" Telepaths. Thing is, most telepaths in fiction can't make Your Head A Splode. And the Big Bad can overpressurize a man's veins until he fountains blood and bursts into flames!
- Videodrome, where Max (probably) gets mutable flesh and a giant mouth in his stomach, which can apparently create hand grenades.
- Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986) gains the ability to wallcrawl, super strength, and even vomit a corrosive enzyme to dissolve food (or enemies). Unfortunately, he gained these abilities when he accidentally fused his genes with a fly, and slowly mutates into a grotesque giant insect/human hybrid. Blessed with Suck indeed.
- Magnum Opus Dissonance: Cronenberg's (arguably) two most popular films, The Fly (1986) and A History of Violence, were actually born out of Troubled Production on two films - he went into the director's chair on the former after he was fired from production on Total Recall (1990), and in the commentary, says he was "interested in it somewhat" (he didn't write the original script, just some patchwork), and admitted that he didn't like the original 1958 film. The latter film is one which he did primarily for the paycheck after having to defer his salary on the now-forgotten Spider. Unlike many of the creators here, he has come to appreciate these projects, and talks in interviews about doing a potential companion piece to The Fly.
Conversely, two of his best reviewed films, Videodrome and Eastern Promises didn't do too well at the box office; Promises barely made it's money back and Videodrome flopped. Fortunately Promises was nominated for an Oscar and several Golden Globes and Videodrome has since been Vindicated by History with a lavish Criterion Collection release.
- Mean Character Nice Actor: David Cronenberg as a director, though usually not as an actor. His films are full of hideous mutations, Cold-Blooded Torture, images of depraved sexuality, and exploding heads. In person, he's a very nice, unassuming sort of guy. Martin Scorsese said he looked like a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. This usually comes across in his cameo appearances, although he played a Serial Killer in Clive Barker's NightBreed.
- Mindscrew: Several films as regards to what is really happening and what isn't.
- Organic Technology: There are fleshy videocasettes and living televisions in Videodrome, talking insectoid typewriters in Naked Lunch, and organic videogame platforms and guns in eXistenZ.
- Playing Against Type: A meta example. He's known mainly as a horror director who has made several very unsettling films, but in interviews he's always a very humble, articulate and unassuming sort of guy. In his biggest acting role in Clive Barker's Nightbreed, he plays a Serial Killer who talks in a Creepy Monotone and is so evil and depraved (among other things, he's both a family killer and a genocider) that it comes as a shock if you're mostly familiar with the real guy.
- Spiritual Successor: eXistenZ is regarded as this to Videodrome.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Several films blur the line between reality and imagination with a protagonist who is hallucinating at several or all points.
- Videodrome, in which Max Renn's grasp of reality is tainted by the brain-damaging Videodrome signal.
- Naked Lunch, in which Bill Lee is either insane, tripping on drugs, or is inserting himself into his own story about Interzone.
- Spider is told from the perspective of Spider, a paranoid schizophrenic who is hallucinating half the time.