Antiviral review – Brandon Cronenberg’s first work
Let me begin this Antiviral review by stating that, whenever the son of an artist decides to make his first move into the media-world of his parent, many thorny issues may arise. Some critics claim the so called son art is a cancer for the art industry. They caution those who wish to follow their parent’s footsteps make an effort to do so without using the advantage of their celebrity connections, thus being forced to follow the same path to success as regular people. However, we can’t deny that in film art many children of famous directors have done an excellent job. People like Sophia Coppola with Lost in Translation, Jason Reitman with Thank You For Smoking and Duncan Jones (son of legendary musician David Bowie) with Moon have made many valid films. Now it’s the turn of Brandon Cronenberg, son of the king of body-horror David Cronenberg, author of movies like Videodrome, The Naked Lunch and A History of Violence.
Antiviral, his debut behind the camera, is a strange film. It tells of a culture of celebrity obsession, where a bloated pharmaceutical industry sells its customers the diseases of celebrities. In this reality, people can buy the latest fad; an actor’s herpes or the cold strain of a famous model, because the fascination with VIPs has reached grotesquely heightened levels. Within this setting, Syd March plays a double game as he works for Lucas Clinic, the most important industry in this sector, while illegally selling virus’ on the side, acting as a carrier. Until one day celebrity Hanna Geist dies… killing her is the same virus recently injected into Syd. Now he must discovered the mystery that revolves around the virus and the famous woman, for his own survival.
It is not easy to review such a film. The plot is very original and interesting. Those who like insane movies will be fascinated by frequently extreme grotesque images. The social protest to the manipulation of the masses and the information is clear, but it does not bite as the young author (he is not yet thirty) wishes it would. The narration is hobbled by insecure direction, the execution plagued with unnecessary slowness of rythmn , the film’s curse. The images clearly convey the introspective intention of the author within thew first few scenes, but Brandon is not secure in what he intends to say. The potential of the plot is wasted in unnecessary scenes only intended to lengthen the movie.
The theme of a fictional virus industry clearly makes some accusations to the actual management of mass media, however the philosophical direction isn’t given time it deserves to fully develop. This the reason which prevents the film from realizing its masterpiece potential. Many things are attempted to be said, but never timed accordingly in the film. Finally, we’re forced to overlook some bad visual passages resulting from a very low budget (and again, ineffective directing method), and must remember that the screenplay was not subject to the ‘money’ question.
We must pay criticism to the style approach so familiar in manner to Cronenberg senior’s themes. David Cronenberg’s artistic contribution to film is deeply rooted in the philosophy of body-horror, a kind of narration which objectifies the graphic deconstruction and degenerative transformation of the body. It is too easy to compare the work of the artist son with the production of his senior relative. Brandon’s style bears clear resemblance to his father’s, however his vision contains less gore, instead a sanitized version of body-horror. The effectiveness of his vision has clear limits, and causes the audience to speculate on the conviction the director has for this genre and whether he can mature without his father’s assistance. In this debate lies the genesis of the son’s art.
The cast of Antiviral is rich in talent, starting with protagonist Caleb Landry Jones, effectively sick and suffering when necessary. Along him we can find many other actors from Cronenberg Senior’s filmography: the beautiful Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis), Nicholas Campbell (The Brood, The Dead Zone, The Naked Lunch) and legendary Malcom McDowell – Alex Delarge of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clocwork Orange.