Sundance 2023

Midnight Selections

“Infinity Pool”

I often speak of the decline of modern Cinema and how it becomes less and less dangerous as the years go on. Today’s films rarely have the spark to elicit true visceral reactions from today’s moviegoers and have even less to say. Brandon Cronenberg’s “Infinity Pool” is the tonic we so desperately need.

The complicit murder of one’s true self and the masks we wear to disguise our distorted existence (or are they are real faces, now deformed from giving in to the darkness within?), these are some of the strongest themes contained in Cronenberg’s blood and sex-soaked hallucinatory triumph.

Taking an unapologetically vicious aim at the depravity and self-righteous privilege of the rich, Cronenberg finds his thematic targets dead in his sights and has a wickedly-artful good time picking them off one by one.

Alexander Skarsgård is writer James Foster, whose one novel made him the talk of the town for a few years, has yet to follow it up. He has yet to find inspiration for a follow up and walks through his privileged life lethargically hoping something inside him will ignite an idea.

James and his even richer wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), have come to a beautiful Eastern European country as two more members of the smug elites who stay at beautiful resorts, not caring of the poverty and desperation that lies outside the gates.

The couple soon meets a young woman named Gabi (the fearless and brilliant Mia Goth), who claims to be a fan of James’ novel.

Gabi and her partner Alban (Jalil Lespert) talk James and Em into leaving the grounds of the resort, even though it is against the rules and very dangerous. The ever-fortunate thinking they are always above the rules.

On the way back, Jack runs over and kills a man he didn’t see. Terrified, the couples return to the resort. Soon they are taken by the authorities. Jack finds himself in a room with a man named Thresh (Thomas Kretschmann), who explains that, in their country, this is a mandatory death sentence, but there is a way out.

Thresh tells him of a cloning process for those who can afford it.  They have the technology to make a clone of James that will be the one to take his place in death, but he must watch.

Brandon Cronenberg’s screenplay makes an important case on how the rich feel empowered to buy their way out of almost any problems and how, when we allow ourselves to take their money and look the other way, it corrupts us all.

By using the clones as dispensable “people”, Cronenberg also comments on how the upper class sees little value in the lives of the underprivileged. You do for me. I won’t lower myself to do for you.

After the brutal killing of the clone, Thresh says Jack and Em are free to go home, but James pretends he has lost his passport and has to stay behind for a while.

It is here where the strange waking nightmare begins, as Gabi introduces James to a clique of smug rich couples who find hedonistic glee in watching their clones murdered over and over.

As James gets deeper into the group (seduced by the power and by Gabi), he takes part in murders, break-ins, and drug-laced orgies that are as disturbing as erotic.

Much as his father tested viewer’s sexual limits in 1997’s “Crash”, Brandon Cronenberg dares his audience to be titillated by the orgy scene, as he blends the grinding animalistic bodies with flashes of the grotesque.

The imagery is extreme, and the director wants his audience to be both entranced and disturbed in equal measure. This sequence is full-on drug induced chaos infused with a savage sexual energy.

Cinematographer Karim Hussain (perhaps the finest DP in Horror films today) shoots the orgy as if his own camera has dropped a heavy hit of acid and there is no one to guide it. The moment is aggressive and untamed, as the screen becomes a moving collage of sweat and sex and sin.

Hussain gives the film its surreal energy. The DP shoots the sunny resort with a postcard level beauty but embraces the eerie dark that exists beyond the gates. As James dives deeper into the debauchery, Hussain increases the wild framing and trippy color schemes to heighten and disturb our senses, as we join our lead character on his hellish descent.

The score from Tim Hecker compliments Cronenberg’s alluring theater of the grotesque. The composer’s deep synth rhythms become film’s the dark beating heart, fueling the intensity moment to moment.

Alexander Skarsgård is the perfect choice for James. His handsome face and Nordic features fit both the clean-cut vacationer and the brutish monster he becomes once seduced by the sexually violent power of the elites.

Mia Goth is one of the most dedicatedly free actresses working, consistently fearless in every performance. As Gabi, the actress is mesmerizing. The character is a sociopath who stands at the precipice of becoming completely unhinged. Goth fully commits, working without a net, giving everything to the role in a masterful portrayal of unrestrained madness.

Brandon Cronenberg is an innate talent who matches his hypnotic visuals with something real to say about society and the uglier parts of human nature.

“Infinity Pool” is intellectual horror designed to make us uncomfortable as it seduces and challenges. This is a captivating motion picture that unapologetically destroys the walls of cinematic boundaries.


Infinity Pool

Written and Directed by Brandon Cronenberg

Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Thomas Kretschmann

NC-17, 117 Minutes, Film Forge/Hero Squared/Elevation Pictures