'Infinity Pool' Review
January 26, 2023
While this past year brought us numerous filmmakers offering a satirical take on the metaphorical war between classes (Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness, Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and Mark Mylod’s The Menu come to mind), Brandon Cronenberg is here to deliver the supremely dark and twisted version of that story. This extreme combination of sex, violence, high art, and classism may not cohere as well as it should, but it always remains intriguing and elicits responses very few filmmakers would dare search for.
Married couple James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) are taking their vacation at a swanky resort in a fictional country whose economy heavily relies upon tourism. James wrote a mediocre book six years ago and has struggled with writer’s block ever since, so this vacation also serves as a last-ditch attempt to find inspiration. A beautiful young woman (Mia Goth) approaches James and tells him she’s a big fan of his book, a statement that greatly strokes his ego. A night of drinking commences, coming to a screeching halt when James accidentally runs over a local farmer with his car.
This country has harsh penalties when it comes to murder, even if it was by accident. The only way for this matter to be resolved is for the farmer’s son to kill James. Fortunately, the law also has a way out for those that can pay for it, a process that creates a clone that will be used for the execution. Essentially, you are totally above the law if you can afford it.
The metaphor, in all its obviousness, begs the ultimate question: What would you do if there were no consequences for your actions? For a small group of tourists, who induct James as their newest member, it means murdering and stealing your way through an uninhibited life. While the filmmakers mentioned in the introduction look down upon the rich by lifting up the working class, Cronenberg doesn’t share that optimistic outlook on the everyman. James leaps upon the opportunity to indulge in his most perverse fantasies, proving that the most critical philosophers were right in saying that we only restrain our true selves in fear of punishment.
But the one thing that I doubt we share with James and his compatriots is the level of debauchery they engage in. I don’t know about you, but a Gaspar Noé-inspired orgy filmed through a kaleidoscope and edited with every intention to fry your senses wouldn’t be one of the first things I would do if the societal chains were broken. Cronenberg ups his craftsmanship with this sophomore feature, confidently telling his story with playfully chaotic energy. Things slightly deflate near the final act, where the acts of madness feel more for show than for substance, but the compelling nature of it all is impossible to deny.
Aiding that “can’t look away even though you want to” energy is Goth’s delightfully mad-capped performance. Between her work in High Life, Suspiria, and the Ti West trilogy of Pearl, X, and the upcoming MaXXXine, she has cemented herself as one of the most interesting actors working today. You’re wondering what she'll do next, and she always delivers beyond expectations.
With Infinity Pool, Brandon has proved that the Cronenberg surname is in good hands for the foreseeable future. There’s a method to his madness, one that I feel will continually get better as time goes on. I’m both incredibly excited and dreadful about what demented material he has waiting in the wings.