Crimes of the Future: Cronenberg’s Horror Cinema of the body Generates Walkouts–and Standing Ovation

‘Crimes of the Future’ Earns Cannes Walkouts and 7-Minute Standing Ovation

Kristen Stewart, from left, Viggo Mortensen,

In Cronenberg’s new horror movie, Crimes of the Future, the main characters can feel no pain.
Crimes of the Future opens in U.S. theaters on June 3.

At the world premiere last night dozen attendees walked out midway through the film, unable to observe what was happening onscreen. But the movie also earned 7-minute standing ovation.

The film reunites Cronenberg with Viggo Mortensen (“A History of Violence,” “Eastern Promises”) alongside two hot actors, American Kristen Stewart (Spencer) and French Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color).

In the new film, Cronenberg returns to his sci-fi/horror signature for the first time since 1999’s Existenz. (One of my least favorable Cronenberg films)

Crimes of the Future may be the strangest, most divisive movie of the festival at this year’s Cannes, though, I did not find the film offensive or provocative on any level.

Mortensen plays a performance artist who has his organs operated on in some pseudo-sexual ritual in this dystopian universe. Stewart plays an employee at the transplant center, who in one scene purrs to him: “Surgery is the new sex.”

The film includes a gory child autopsy scene, shots of bloody intestines and characters who orgasm by licking each other’s open wounds. There’s also a chair shaped like an oblong human spine that rotates at grotesque angles.

“I’m very touched by your response,” Cronenberg said after the ovation. “I hope you’re not kidding, I hope you mean it.”

In a separate press screening for the film, critics largely stayed put for the duration of the film, with only few leaving the theater. Nonetheless, the reception for Crimes of the Future was muted, to say the least.

Cronenberg stirred controversy in the festival in 1996 with the premiere of the bold and audacious Crash (one of my favorite Cronenberg films).

Crash stared James Spader as a film producer who becomes involved with a group of people who turn to car crashes in order to get sexually aroused. Cannes viewers booed the film and stormed out of the theater, and even jury president Francis Ford Coppola said that some jurors “abstained very passionately” to the decision to award “Crash” a special jury prize.

The jury was more favorable to Cronenberg in 2014 with the premiere of Maps to the Stars, which won Julianne Moore the best actress prize.

The official “Crimes of the Future” synopsis reads: “As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances.

Meanwhile, Timlin (Kristen Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements, which is when a mysterious group is revealed.  Their mission is to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.”

Cronenberg made headlines prior to Cannes for predicting festival attendees would walk out of the movie, but he clarified: “I wasn’t saying that everybody will walk out. The audience in Cannes is a very strange audience. It’s not a normal audience. A lot of people are there just for the prestige or for the red carpet. And they’re not cinephiles. They don’t know my films. So they might be walkouts, whereas a normal audience would have no problem with the movie. So who knows?”

Crimes of the Future is rated R for “strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity, and some language.”

Crimes of the Future opens in U.S. theaters on June 3.