Film (1979). Mutual Productions/Elgin International. Written and directed David Cronenberg, starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Cindy Hinds. 91 minutes. Colour.
In this Canadian film, the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics's pop psychologist Raglan (Reed), author of The Shape of Rage, is regarded with suspicion by Carveth (Hindle), whose wife Nola (Eggar) is a patient there. Gathering evidence against Raglan, Carveth finds dreadful physical changes taking place in Raglan's ex-patients. Meanwhile, Nola's parents are murdered by monsters shaped like deformed children; these later kidnap Carveth's young daughter (Hinds). Confronting Raglan, Carveth learns that, through bodily metamorphosis, monsters of the mind are given literal shape as Raglan's therapy takes effect on his patients. In the final sequence Carveth witnesses yet another of his wife's "brood", the creatures of her rage, being born from a yolk sac extruded close to her vagina. It takes an extraordinarily confident film-maker to direct a farrago like this without faltering, but Cronenberg's use of the body as metaphor – psychobabble made flesh – is carried off with conviction and wit, and even, where lesser directors would be content with evoking disgust, a compassion for the monstrous as being, after all, only human. There is a subtext about children as victims, suffering a pain transmitted through generations. All the events are viewed with the unblinking, innocent gaze – itself childlike – that characterizes Cronenberg's surreal style. [PN]
see also: Cinema; Monster Movies; Sex.
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