Wednesday, April 11, 2007

34. Canadian David Cronenberg's "Spider" (2002): What is real? Detection within the world of the insane mind


Insanity has been captured on cinema in myriad ways. David Cronenberg leads the viewer into the world of the unsettled mind in a manner few directors have been able to do in the past. And the film from a medical standpoint is rather accurate… Many of my friends swear by A beautiful mind, which though based on a real living person, I find to be the typical Hollywood dose of wide-eyed awe of a personality with capabilities that tower over the ordinary—in this case a mathematician tottering on the thin line between madness and genius.

Luciano Salce's El Greco (1966), with Mel Ferrer, Fernando Rey and Adolfo Celli, based on the real life painter El Greco was a similar cinematic tale, only far better in quality—thanks to contribution of the European filmmakers. Canadian director David Cronenberg's Spider invites the viewer into the world of madness leading the viewer to enter the deranged mind with compassion as the story is unraveled from the viewpoint of the deranged mind. Cinematic clues are liberally strewn by the director throughout the film—but will the viewer catch on? For instance, the camera shows the diary is not even made up of sentences or words but writing that resembles sentences. The number 29 on the door of the house, the present and past tenants, the broken glass give the viewer more clues that all is not what it seems. Miranda Richardson's triple role in the film gives further clues to the viewer to unravel the real story. The sequence of the body being carried out of the house, revealing who was actually killed, is a very creative twist provided by the director.

Thus the film while presenting an intimate portrait of an individual returning to normal life after drug therapy and the effect of not continuing the medication, with the help of stark and drab exteriors that reflect the state of the mind, slowly engages the viewer to realize that the story can be as lively as a detective story—with the viewer as the detective.

This work of Cronenberg pales in comparison to The Fly, which provided a fascinating sci-fi angle. Here, the viewer is limited to the world of insanity, where past and present have to be viewed clinically—not by emotions. Science helps the viewer to put a finger on what is real.

Great performances abound but the unforgettable line in the film for me was: "Clothes maketh the man; and the less there is of the man, the more the need of the clothes." The line referred to the protagonist wearing six shirts, one over the other—but that could also be symbolic. The line is in an odd way the film's story.

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