Few directors find their style so early in their careers. Yet for Brandon Cronenberg, his DNA is encoded with directorial vision. Quickly establishing his own voice, Cronenberg delivered his own take on body horror with Possessor. His follow-up, Infinity Pool pushes the limits of what can be shown on screen. Cronenberg never shies away from his point, largely putting a target on class issues. Visually disorienting, Infinity Pool is only for the strong of stomach.

Author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) finds himself adrift. After years of struggling to write his second novel, he goes on a vacation with his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), to find inspiration. While on La Tolqa (a fictional island), they meet the Bauers. Gabi Bauer (Mia Goth) claims to be a fan, while Alban (Jalil Lespert) suggests they take a trip outside of the resort. However, when something goes wrong, James is arrested. While the penalty for his crime is death, La Tolqa has a unique system: the uber-rich can clone themselves for a fee, and their clone will serve the punishment. James becomes obsessed, watching his clones die over and over again.

Infinity pool Brandon Cronenberg Neon Alexander Skarsgård

Cronenberg slathers on the class issues at play, forcing us to live in the metaphor. If only the extremely wealthy can afford this, then there’s already a disparity at play. The old saying – money fixes everything – quickly becomes the thesis of the film. As James, Gabi, and their wealthy group of friends wreaks havoc on La Tolqa, its clear that there are no rules when you have infinite money.

The film quickly devolves into nihilism, which Cronenberg handles surprisingly well. The disorientation spirals, and soon it is unclear how long James has been in La Tolqa. Has it been mere days? Or have weeks elapsed? Using hardcore drugs further complicates the world. Eventually, Cronenberg unleashes literal and figurative orgies on the audience in one of the more audacious sex scenes in recent film memory.

Infinity pool Brandon Cronenberg Neon Alexander Skarsgård

Infinity Pool relishes in sex and violence. Cronenberg seemingly challenges the Sam Levinsons of the world, truly showing what it means to be provocative. This can be upsetting, and downright cruel at moments. Yet Cronenberg lets the chaos continue. These are bad people doing bad things, and he never lets the audience forget it. Few “eat the rich” films in the last year showcase nasty footage like Infinity Pool, but its the excess that makes it stand out.

Both Skarsgård and Goth turn up to an 11, and understand how unlikable this will make them. Goth once again walks away with the film, embracing the banal nature of Infinity Pool like a glove. She brings an unknowability to the role that makes you wonder about her motives. Yet she also breaks into screaming laughter that chills to the bone. Few actresses show total control over tone like Goth.

Meanwhile, Skarsgård proves set on destroying himself once again. After the intensity of The Northman, it seemed unlikely Skarsgård would jump straight into another soul-shattering film like Infinity Pool. Yet, this marks another checkmark on the “embarrass Alexander Skarsgård” checklist, joining Atlanta and Documentary Now! in just the last 18 months. It makes him one of our most exciting actors today, as he willingly gets pulled into subverting his own persona.

Infinity pool Brandon Cronenberg Neon Alexander Skarsgård

Colman also brings her A-game but receives significantly less screen time. For a minute, she feels like the audience surrogate. Yet it’s clear she’s closer to the good angel on James’ shoulder. In limited screentime, Colman works wonders. Not only do we believe this is a woman struggling to hold onto her marriage, but her genuine shock at James’ new interests. The face of disgust at James is a miraculous effect, as her ire is not only directed at him but at herself as well.

Infinity Pool will have a very narrow audience that is into its grotesque story. Yet those that love it will champion it for decades. Infinity Pool is maximalist in every sense of the word. It’s good to see what Cronenberg is capable of, with big stars and a bigger budget. The question ahead is whether he can tell a story that connects with mass audiences, or if he will always stay in an independent headspace.

Alan’s Rating: 8/10

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