#90 - Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)

The Specter of Capitalism

When I started writing this blog I knew this would happen sooner or later. A movie will come along that is impossible to penetrate after a single watch and competently write about the very day after seeing it. It seems that “Cosmopolis” is that film. So of course my first thought when I sat down to write this article was that maybe a cryptic movie deserves a somewhat cryptic write up?
Sure I could describe the plot or go on a tangent about the actors, about the technical aspects of the film or whatever other superficial observations I may have. And this is sometimes the only thing you can write about a movie, but movies like that are usually very shallow experiences for me. However this is not a shallow movie. There is not a shallow bone in its body.

The thing is that the very nature of “Cosmopolis” demands that this film is engaged on a deeper level, and yet that deeper level seems somewhat impenetrable under these circumstances. It is obvious that this film on a certain level is an examination of modern society, and it feels like the film points out the major flaw of this system that we are all living in, but what is it? I can’t tell. There is something important within its clinical, distanced, psychological and philosophical observations. Or maybe there isn’t and it just feels like that.
What gives “Cosmopolis” this sense of weight is in the very design of the film. It does not only tell a story of a billionaire on his way to get a haircut, but it also portrays the self induced deterioration of his world through a series of episodes with different personalities along the way. They all show a different facet of him and present a different observation of our money driven society.

There’s the brilliant young analyst who can’t take his eyes off the screen, and the language in this scene is as cryptic as the data that these guys are wrangling. Their talk, as our billionaire risks his fortune, seems to penetrate outside the fabric of the film itself to the point where it breaks the 4th wall – a line from this scene: “Any assault on the borders of perception is gonna seem rash at first.” How very self-aware. Then there’s an art-dealer from which our billionaire demands to buy an unsellable work of art – which seems to be nothing but three large black panels set up side by side. Then his Oracle-like philosophical adviser visits him as his limo drives through a riot, a man sets himself on fire outside and the only comment that they seem to have is how unoriginal such act is. They mention the Vietnamese monks setting themselves on fire, just to be heard. But this limo is sound proof.

The film points out the disparity between the super rich of our times and, well, everyone else. Our billionaire hardly even seems human, especially in his interactions with his uninterested young bride that are as cold as they are absurd. Every other line said is a comment on how regular people behave and they’re trying to copy normal human behavior. He is trying to make contact in the most ordinary ways, but he doesn’t know how. This gives the film a sublime sense of strange and absurd humor. However he has an asymmetrical prostate.

And that seems to be at the core of it all, the answer to why he is destroying everything he’s built. Why he has daily medical check-ups. Why he wants to be tazed and goes towards his would-be assassin. Because despite his removal from anything human he discovers that he is human after all and all the rational and logical talk and reasoning and all the money in the world cannot deny that single fact. Because he didn’t read the “Yuan” correctly. Because he has an asymmetrical prostate, and that is the only thing he shares with the man who represents all the disgruntled people who became his victims. The man that is his final judgment. The man who knows how to solve the “Yuan” issue. The man who he hides from in his stretch limousine.
There is a moral weight in here that looks in to something that affects us all in some way, and I don’t know if I’ll ever fully see it in “Cosmopolis”.  One thing is for sure, this is the kind of film that I obsess over and it is a film that will most certainly provide me with many rewarding viewings. Its closest relation to me is “Crash” - that other Cronenberg obsession of mine. However just like “Crash” this is a most divisive film, a film that could prove to be as frustrating as it is smart, and a film that cannot leave anyone ambivalent. 


Robert Pattinson - Eric Packer
Sarah Gadon - Elise Shifrin
Kevin Durand - Torval
Paul Giamatti - Benno Levin
Samantha Morton - Vija Kinsky
Juliette Binoche - Didi Francher

Cosmopolis on IMDb

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