The latest film from Brandon Cronenberg (son of legendary Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg) is a hybrid mix of sci-fi, horror and trenchant social commentary. He takes on class, wealth, privilege, artistic conceits, power, western decadence, guilt and the breakdown of civilization. It comes across like a fevered, darker and more transgressive variation on the recent The Forgiven, but it becomes increasingly bonkers.
The film is set in an isolated and exclusive beach front resort in the fictitious, impoverished country of La Tolqa. The resort itself is surrounded by barbed wire and protected by armed guards, and the guests are warned not to leave the grounds.
James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) is a writer who suffers from writer’s block and hasn’t written anything new since his debut novel was published six years earlier to a mixed reception. He’s holidaying at the resort with his wealthy wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), the daughter of his publisher. There they meet Gabi (Mia Goth) and her architect husband Alban (Jalil Laspert), regular visitors to the resort, who invite them to accompany them on a day trip away from the compound to a nearby beach. On the return journey that night, James is driving the car when he strikes a farmer crossing the road, killing him. The four quickly decide against informing the police because Gabi warns them that justice in this country can be cruel and harsh.
The next morning the police arrive at the resort and take James and Em into custody. They learn that they will be executed giving the grieving family of the dead man some sort of satisfaction. Then James learns from corrupt local cop Thresh (Thomas Kretschman) that there is a way to escape this harsh justice. For a fee he can have a clone made of himself which will be executed in his stead, while he watches from the sidelines. James is then slowly drawn into a world of hedonistic pleasure, primal behaviour, sex and violence, orchestrated by the seductive Gabi. This is a world where the rich can get away with pushing the boundaries, even committing murder and not suffer the consequences.
Director Cronenberg follows in his father’s footsteps with plenty of grotesque imagery, confronting violence and body horror elements that have become a staple of his films. The film was stylishly shot on location in Croatia and Hungary by his regular cinematographer Kerim Hussain (Possessor), who creates a striking visual contrast between the lavish resort and the gritty landscape beyond its confines, giving the location an otherworldly look and feel. He also uses colour and interesting camera angles to further unsettle the audience.
There is also some great rapid editing from James Vandewater (The Grizzlies) who creates some dazzling and unsettling images. The film begins in ominous fashion with Tim Hecker’s jarring score and Hussain’s camera turning the locations upside down to unsettle audiences.
Goth (from Ti Wests’s horror films X and Pearl) and Skarsgard establish a combustible chemistry here and they drive the film through its wild and uninhibited paces. Goth in particular shines and brings a sense of unbridled energy and a manic quality to her performance.
Infinity Pool is both confronting and confounding in equal measure and is definitely not a film that will appeal to everyone.
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Greg King has had a life long love of films. He has been reviewing popular films for over 15 years. Since 1994, he has been the film reviewer for BEAT magazine. His reviews have also appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper, S-Press, Stage Whispers, and a number of other magazines, newspapers and web sites. Greg contributes to The Blurb on film