James and Em Foster are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation in the fictional island of La Tolqa, when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence and surreal horrors.
Editing: James Vandewater
Music: Tim Hecker
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Jalil Lespert, Cleopatra Coleman, Adam Boncz, Thomas Kretschmann, Amanda Brugel, Jeff Ricketts, John Ralston, Caroline Boulton
Directors: Brandon Cronenberg
Writers: Brandon Cronenberg
Cinematography: Karim Hussain
Like his father, Brandon Cronenberg is making films pushing that aren’t afraid to push the envelope. His latest, Infinity Pool — finally getting an Australian cinema release — is the kind of film to make audiences squirm in their seats, both at the excess of sex and violence on-screen and the characters and themes themselves. However, what may be more uncomfortable for some is how Infinity Pool almost holds a mirror up and asks the audience to look within themselves, and they might not like what they see.
James (Alexander Skarsgård) is on vacation with his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), on an undisclosed island. Their blissful beach romantic getaway is a faux reality. Barbed wire fences keep the mostly white guests happily within the dream-like hotel and its grounds. At the same time, protestors appear to break in periodically to fight back against the hotel. An early scene shows a man on an ATV tearing up the beach before being chased off by hotel security.
Seeking inspiration for his next novel, James might have found it when he meets Gabi (Mia Goth) and her partner Alban (Jalil Lespert). Gabi introduces herself and professes her love for James’ first novel, instantly instilling a sense of trust and attraction in Gabi. And they accept when Alban and Gabi invite James and Em to sneak out of the hotel grounds to another beach. They drink and leave their rubbish in the sand, like the million that caused Maya Bay in Thailand to be closed, they’re simply enjoying the beautiful locations of this island without a care in the world. But their drunken antics and adventurous demeanour are returned to the ground when James hits a local farmer on the drive back to the hotel. They attempt to hide it in the security of the fences at the hotel, but the Police come for James in the morning.
Being charged with murder, James’ position of privilege and wealth, thanks to his wife Em, allows him to take up the offer provided by the Police. He will be cloned and watch as another version of himself is killed instead of himself. Straight away, the question is asked, however: “Do you ever wonder if they got the wrong man?” But rather than fall into a hole of doppelganger paranoia, Infinity Pool is much more interested in exploring the depths of excess that we’ll go to when presented with a get-out-of-jail-free card for any crimes. Outside their countries, and now let loose in a foreign one where their power and money buy another life at any point, these let off what remained of their humanity and become nothing but animals.
Gabi pushes James into increasingly depraving, violent and filthy situations and acts as the film continues. And he is at the beck-and-call of this woman who professed her love for his book. Alban appears not to care as Gabi sits her hand on his thigh, and James has no care to sneak out and away from his wife the night after they’re back from the Police Station. While Em is rightfully freaking out over what just happened, it’s James, Gabi, Alban, and some new friends that are merrily drinking the night away and using an indigenous drug and ritual to get high.
Once Infinity Pool shows its doppelganger hand, Mia Goth steals the show. The actress, who has been nothing but a rising horror star since Suspiria and last years X and Pearl (which she co-wrote), is at any point so close to eating every scene she’s in to the point of ridiculousness but rides that line perfectly. This a testament to both Goth and director Cronenberg and his trust in the actress to go all-out.
Infinity Pool isn’t going to be for everyone; its excesses are high, and it’s a filthy and violent film. Once again, exploring identities as he did in his previous film Possessor, in Infinity Pool, he asks more direct questions of the audience. It’s a confrontational film about capitalism and the uncontrolled accountability of those with money and power. Undeniably, it is however one of the most well-made nightmares you can put yourself through this year.
Infinity Pool is in cinemas on May 11th.