Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I'm being careful not to give too much away here, as the film depends on a slow unveiling of details to work, but I can say that Dennis/Spider revisits his past many times. The effect of having Spider watching his memories as they occur again in front of him is nothing but remarkable, enabling us to have flashbacks while at the same time continuing in the present. It's like an extended version of those scenes in "It's a Wonderful Life" except with no angel, and no happy ending on the way(we already know where Spider ends up in the future.)
Fiennes' Spider is a badly broken man. He constructs routines to try and stay cohesive, coffee at the same time in the same seat, solves puzzles, smokes obsessively and scribbles strange symbols in a notebook. His desperation is riveting and unsettling. We watch his routines change (and his reactions to changes)as he becomes more immersed in visiting the past. Spider rarely says a word but we watch him clawing to express some mystery that he can't quite reach.
Miranda Richardson also does an amazing job here as Spider's loving mother as well as another part which I'll recommend you don't even think about until after you've watched it. But I will say the performance is brilliant and you'll see why. Gabriel Byrne is Spider's father, a pretty affable guy (at first) who likes to hang out at the bar. His character has a lot of ground to cover with not a lot of screen time, but he covers it all and drives home a heartbreaking scene. (Which again I won't talk much about)
Director Cronenberg knows how movies work, and he knows what we expect. We can't help but feel for Spider as he tries to navigate his own mind to fix what's broken. Watching his sincere urgency as he tries to step into the past is almost physically affecting. We so badly want him to solve the puzzle and the mind to fix itself. Puzzles and webs are central to this movie, and tellingly, in one scene, they are both the same. Every detail in this movie feels intricately planned to lead us somewhere. Just keep in mind that we are being led by Spider, who may not be the most reliable guide. It all makes sense, but not the way you want it to.
Be forewarned that again, this is a challenging movie to watch. If you're uncomfortable with watching serious mental illness, do not watch this film. This movie is not any relation of "A Beautiful Mind" There are no monsters, and not much really happens but I think of Spider as one of the smartest horror movies ever made, intricate and intense in its measured unfolding.