Review | Infinity Pool | 2023

Imagine Claire Denis' Stars at Noon but with some fucked up kinky sex and you have some notion of what you're walking into when you go see Brandon Cronenberg's latest feature, Infinity Pool

The son of renowned filmmaker, David Cronenberg, Brandon Cronenberg made something of a name for himself with Possessor in 2020. In Infinity Pool, he seems to tackle one of his father's most infamous works - Crash (1996), and put his own unique spin on it. Here we have struggling author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman) who are on vacation in a fictional Balkan country known for its beautiful beaches and extremely conservative government. Guests are admonished to remain at their resorts and not venture into the impoverished interior of the country - a prospect that proves all too alluring to adventurous tourists.

Upon meeting a mysterious fan named Gabby (Mia Goth) who encourages them to sneak off with her and her husband, but when a tragic accident turns James into an unwitting murderer, he discovers the country's dark secret; the punishment for almost every crime is death. But to engender goodwill with wealthier nations, the tiny country offers to clone foreign convicts and put their clones to death - for a steep price. As he digs deeper - he unearths a strange group of foreign tourists connected by a shared traumatic experience of having witnessed their own deaths - and found it so sexually alluring that they continue to chase that high over and over again.

It's a darkly fascinating film, one rife with criticisms of western colonialism and the way in which poor countries whose economies thrive on tourist dollars are often forced to endure vulgar westerners running roughshod over their cultures. While the film certainly favors aesthetics over theme, Cronenberg crafts something that is as horrifying as it is intoxicating. Goth is just such a magnetic presence, even at her character's most annoying. I loved every unhinged moment and Goth commands the screen at every turn.

While it's hard not to wish that the film ultimately had more to say with such an incisive thematic palate at hand, Infinity Pool is nonetheless hard to shake. In an era when studio product is becoming increasingly homogenized, this feels like a jolt to the system, a truly unique and uncompromising vision that aims for the fences and finds horror on foreign shores in ways that isn't orientalist, instead placing the blame directly on the tourists who find both beauty and darkness their quest for adventure at the expense of the poor. It's a wild ride, and one well worth taking.

GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)

INFINITY POOL | Directed by Brandon Cronenberg | Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Thomas Kretschmann, Amanda Brugel, John Ralston | Rated R for graphic violence, disturbing material, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and some language | Now playing in theaters nationwide.


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