Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature, Infinity Pool, is a violent, psychological thriller which drags audiences down into the murky depths within ourselves that most are too afraid—rightly—to shine a light on.
The film stars Alexander Skarsgard as James, a struggling writer with a single novel under his belt which he published six years ago. He and his wealthy wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman) have decided to stay at a resort on La Tolqa, an island blistered with dangers of all sort just outside the barbed-wire confines of the swanky club. They hope it will inspire James, but instead encounter Gabi (Mia Goth), a seductive actress who, following a terrible accident which sees him avoid punishment by the authorities through a rather odd set of circumstances, sets James on a path of self-discovery through sex, drugs and reckless violence.
See, James doesn’t know who he is anymore. Is he a writer, or a talentless hack? Does he belong in high society, or is he merely pretending? Does this life even satisfy him? Through James, Infinity Pool takes us on a shocking journey wrought with seedy characters that have taken an interest in his identity crisis. Skarsgard is animalistic in this role of a man who is exploring the beast inside of him. Casual curiosity becomes fear becomes wild hunger in a performance from Skarsgard that’s as raw as it is primal. It’s a daring portrayal that’s impossible to take your eyes off of.
Yet for as magnetic as Skarsgard is, it’s Mia Goth who once again steals the show. If you thought the actress frightened you in Pearl, just wait until you see her in Infinity Pool. Both alluring and dangerous, Goth sizzles with an untamed electricity. In one moment, you’re captivated by her free nature, and in the next you’re wanting to run screaming from this raging lunatic. With Gabi and her friends, Cronenberg sets free the wealthy class and exposes their excess of depravity in the face of having nothing but experience left to achieve. She and the others are Cenobite-lite, pushing James further and further past his limits, beyond the furthest region of experience or what have you. And oh, is Infinity Pool an experience.
Surreal. Sinful. Sexy. Infinity Pool is an orgy of pleasure and pain, trapped somewhere between ecstasy and nightmares. For every scene of eroticism there’s another of violent brutality. Cronenberg goes bold here, unflinching when it comes to treading taboos or shattering them altogether. Bloody breastfeeding. Close-ups of ejaculation. Things I can’t even begin to describe. Nothing is too weird or too uncomfortable to appear on screen.
While Brandon has an accomplished style all his own, his work walks in the same odd corners of the mind as his father’s, which is where Infinity Pool is going to lose some audiences. The word baffling comes to mind when describing Cronenberg’s latest. Twisty camera movements that float in the air; Strobing lights and dreamy colors that flash across the frame; Infinity Pool is a disorienting mind-fuck that doesn’t even leave you a few bucks for the Uber to get home. It’s difficult to know what the hell is going on at a certain point as subplots are more or less forgotten and reality blends with nightmare until we don’t know which is which anymore. “Is this a dream? It would make more sense,” questions one character, because for better or worse, none of it does. But “making sense” isn’t really the point. Cronenberg sacrifices a cohesive narrative for strong thematics which resonate. Why do people on this island where those unsettling, fleshy masks? Who knows, but they work wonders as symbols of the disfigured monsters residing inside us.
Infinity Pool speaks to the limitless debauchery which human beings are capable of. Though the plot sags here and there and the nonsensical nature of it can be disengaging, Cronenberg has crafted a thematically powerful animal of a film that claws into humanity and lets its dark nature spill out on the floor. Destined to be divisive, it won’t be for everyone, but for those willing to tread waters which push what a major studio is willing to release these days, open up your mind and step into the dark depths of Infinity Pool.
Infinity Pool arrives in theaters January 27th from Neon.
By Matt Konopka