Monday, 25 June 2012

Cosmopolis - The Urge to Destroy...

Contain very minor thematic spoilers

Nothing like a colonoscopy to make me like a Pattinson 

When I first came out of Cosmopolis I knew that I needed to watch the film again. Not only to try and get a decent screening without the moronic audience that made it its mission to ruin the film for me, but also because the film left me perplexed and pensive, which is not amongst the many feelings I usually associate with watching a David Cronenberg film. 

I knew I didn’t hate it, if only because of Robert Pattinson, who left quite an impression over me, but that's perhaps not difficult considering I haven’t seen any of the Twilight films and his role in Harry Potter has completely gone over my head. Cosmopolis refused to leave my mind and I found myself preoccupied with this film for a long time after I moved on with my life.

After the second, much more pleasant, viewing I could confidently say that I loved the film very much. More so, I loved that it haunted me so. I am willing to agree that perhaps it is more likely to be Pattinson’s best film than Cronenberg's (no I am not going to watch any of the Twilight films to find out if I’m right) especially for a Cronenberg fan, but this might be because, while it still have a strong Cronenberg flavour to it, within the Cronenberg universe it's quite a mellow, moderated and controlled film. 
Knowing Cronenberg’s films adds to the anxious feeling of pending doom that shadows the film from the moment Pttinson’s character, Eric Packer, goes into his sexy limousine from space. Pattinson portrays magnificently the self made billionaire, who once was a wonder boy but his wonder is gone. Packer decides he needs a haircut and he must have it, as billionaires often do, at the other side of town in the worst day to do so, in more ways than one. Thus begins Packer’s journey of deterioration.  

In addition to the clinically cold look of the film, superbly cinematographed by Cronenberg’s regular, Peter Suschitzky, the troubling silence and the claustrophobic setting of the limousine, in which most of the film takes place, the dialogues and the language seems weird and unnatural[1], the cameo casting and the almost randomly episodic structure, contribute to the feeling of detachment. As a friend pointed out, it feels like theatre.

At the same time as being an adaptation of Don Delillo’s novel, a satirical and bleak prediction of the collapse of capitalism from 2003, Cosmopolis also had an air of Cronenberg's self reflection. Some of the stops throughout the journey, felt as if they were an examination of his previous film. 

On his first of many limo meeting of the day, Packer's associate/adviser asks why they are not meeting in the office. He replies by asking “how do you know we are not in the office?” which could have been the kind of question asked in any of the body addiction trilogy: Videodrom, Naked Lunch and eXistenZ. I should say that I haven’t read any official claim that these are indeed trilogy and it is my own interpretation that they are. Later Packer stops at a night club and his body guard starts a small talk with him about drugs. Packer’s insistence that violence must have a purpose and meaning is echoing of History of Violence and Eastern Promises and the car and the eerie atmosphere that's attached to it, of course, are reminiscent of Crash. And so, in the same way that Eric Packer examines his life, it seems Cronenberg examines his career through him. 

I suddenly realised that perhaps what was difficult to digest with Cosmopolis is that its focus is emotional rather than physical. Of course all Cronenberg's films deal with both aspect, however in his other films it is usually the physical that points to the emotional. In Cosmopolis it is the other way around and it is Packer's emotional emptiness and deterioration that leads and point to the physical.

The more I think about it, the more I love Cosmopolis. That it preoccupied me as much as it did and still does, is telling. There is a lot more I can and would like to discuss, but unfortunately this is as far as I can go without major spoilers.

[1] From what I understand they are often taken directly from the book from which the film is adapted.


  1. This sounds like a must see. Waiting to see Pattinson in intriguing role.

  2. Thank you for reading. Yes I think it is. Hope you like it.