When his team came by the Deadline Studio at Cannes, even the director of much-anticipated Competition entry Crimes of the Future struggled to find words to describe the surreal story of an artist named Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), who willfully grows mutant organs in his body so that his surgeon partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) can tattoo and catalog them for posterity.
“It’s a noir about performance art that takes place in an alternate universe,” Cronenberg muses. “I don’t know if that would actually help anybody understand the movie, but at least that’s a semi-accurate description.”
Kristin Stewart, who plays a rogue agent working for the government’s National Organ Register, sees a little of the director in Mortensen’s character, a monk-like figure who leads an ascetic life in service of his bizarre project, even though it causes him physical discomfort. “I absolutely think that David believes in art like a religion,” said Stewart, “and that is super-present in the movie. It feels, like, really contagious, actually. I think there’s a bodily limitation that is maddening for him, and you can feel that as well. I don’t want to ruin the movie—not that it’s easy to ruin—but the moment in the end when change is accepted, and when he succumbs to the evolving world that he’s living in, and the beautiful, gentle countenance that washes over him, I think even though the movie’s scary and bloody, it’s so beautiful and so reverential of art, spirituality, humanity, God, religion—whatever you want to call it. It’s like secular religion.”
Tellingly, Stewart’s favorite film of Cronenberg’s is his scandalous 1996 Cannes entry Crash, which, like Crimes of the Future, draws a blurry line between sex and violence. “I like deviant art,” she enthused. “I like marginal, deviant sexual stories where not everyone has the same sex. Everyone experiences their body differently, and finding eroticism in things that are not normally considered in that way sort of forces you to understand that maybe your first instinct is not your only one. I just think David really feels the walls of his body. He’s really trying to push himself out.”
A key theme of the film is encapsulated in the line “surgery is the new sex,” a possibility that Cronenberg believes is not so very far-fetched. “I think there’s already so much on the internet and so on about alternate forms of sex, and sex that doesn’t involve intercourse,” he said, “and it’s a search for a different kind of eroticism that is maybe exotic or invented. People have fetishes now that you wouldn’t imagine, that are not classic, if I can say that. Not the classic shoe fetish or whatever. People are inventing new fetishes that maybe have something to do with new media, social media. Even the weird eroticism of TikTok—like, what is that? Is that pornography? And nobody really knows, so I do think we’re constantly reinventing sex and sexuality. It’s never been simple for humans. [Sex] has always got the element of politics, of culture, of economics, of the environment. So, in short, I think that there will be new forms of sexuality that will establish themselves in the future.”
Check out the video above to hear more from Cronenberg, Stewart, Mortensen and Seydoux.
Aero is the official sponsor of the Deadline Studio at Cannes Film Festival. Sponsors are Soia & Kyo and Jamones Iberico from Spain: Ambassadors of Europe in the World
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