Crimes of the Future

Canada-UK-Greece 2022, 108 mins
Director: David Cronenberg

Director’s Statement

Crimes of the Future is a meditation on human evolution.

Specifically – the ways in which we have had to take control of the process because we have created such powerful environments that did not exist previously.

Crimes of the Future is an evolution of things I have done before. Fans will see key references to other scenes and moments from my other films. That’s a continuity of my understanding of technology as connected to the human body.

Technology is always an extension of the human body, even when it seems to be very mechanical and non-human. A fist becomes enhanced by a club or a stone that you throw – but ultimately, that club or stone is an extension of some potency that the human body already has.

At this critical junction in human history, one wonders – can the human body evolve to solve problems we have created? Can the human body evolve a process to digest plastics and artificial materials not only as part of a solution to the climate crisis, but also, to grow, thrive, and survive?

Interview with David Cronenberg
What is Crimes of the Future about?

In 1966 I saw a Danish movie called Sult which means hunger in Danish, and it was based on a famous Danish novel by Knut Hamsun, which was directed by Henning Carlsen. In that movie the Per Oscarsson plays a poet, a sort of a broken, unrecognised poet who wanders the streets and has adventures and tries to create himself as a legitimate poet, literary force. At one point he’s on a bridge and he’s scribbling something in a pad that he carries with him, and you have a close up of it and it says ‘crimes of the future,’ and that really struck me. I thought, I want to read that poem. Of course he never writes it, but later I thought, well now that I’m starting to become a filmmaker I think I would like to see the movie Crimes of the Future, and so in 1970 I made an underground film, very low budget to say the least, called Crimes of the Future. The title really provoked me, and I think that 1970 low-budget, sort of underground film didn’t ever really satisfy all of the things that I thought could come out of that poem that never got written and so here we are many years later, like half a century maybe and I’ve made another movie called Crimes of the Future, and the only thing the two films have in common is that they are technically about ‘crimes of the future.’ The idea then being that as technology changes, as society changes, things that didn’t exist have come into existence and are suppressed for various reasons as being dangerous to society or a threat to whatever social structure exists, hence Crimes of the Future. I start to think about the human body because I have always thought that was what we are. The human condition is the human body, so Crimes of the Future could involve crimes that come out of what is happening to the human body… as it does evolve, it is changing, it’s changing in very subtle ways and then some not so subtle ways. Partly it’s because of what we’re doing to the planet, partly it’s what we’re doing to ourselves with our own technology and so that intrigued me. I thought I’d like to now make a movie that has to do with how society would react to changes in the human body that it thought were dangerous, were considered dangerous and should be suppressed. I thought that was an interesting topic for me to explore and that therefore is what the movie Crimes of the Future is about.

What’s the short answer?

I’d say Crimes of the Future is about the crimes committed by the human body against itself, and I know that that’s kind of mysterious and kind of confusing, but that’s my answer to that question.

What compels you to look at things that scare a lot of people especially now?

I think there are a lot of cases that one can refer to of people embracing their disease, a disease they have, a disability that they have, a mutation that they have, it’s part of a human desire to make something good out of whatever the human condition offers, and so I think Saul Tenser is just a sort of an exaggerated, extreme version of that. He has found himself producing new organs in his body or things that would be considered tumours. In this case they seem to have an organisation that a tumour does not have. A tumour is really a kind of random collection of cells that grow uncontrollably, they do disrupt all kinds of things in the human body but to no apparent purpose, and they’re basically just destructive. In this case he’s creating new organs that seem to have a function, we just don’t know what that function is, and so it’s a strange kind of designer cancer as one of the characters calls it. His goal is to incorporate it into his life, not to deny it, not to just destroy it but to make it something. In his case, he’s making performance art out of these tumours and, with his partner, designs a series of performances which involve the exposure of these organs and a removal of the organs as though they are art creations that his body has undertaken on its own. It’s partly a desire to come to grips with the reality of his own body, so it’s a need in our human condition that our bodies are constantly changing and require adjustments by us, philosophically, emotionally to deal with those changes. So this is a sort of more structured exaggerated version of what Saul Tenser is undergoing.

Do you think that could happen with our organs?

Oh I think we’re doing it, I think we’re definitely changing, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. It might not be as obvious as I have depicted it. A famous Nobel prize winner, Gerald Edelmen, said that the human brain is not at all like a computer. It is much more like a rainforest where there’s a constant striving for dominance amongst the neurons and the different elements in the brain and they’re constantly responding to the environment, that is to say the intake from your eyes, from your nose, from your senses and also how much you exercise it. So even just talking about the brain as the super organ of human existence, it is constantly changing and mutating and so it’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to imagine that for other parts of the body. The digestive system responds, we now understand the microbiome in the human gut and the intestines, that it’s actually a lot of living organisms there that communicate with the human brain. There’s a constant connection. These things would be considered science fiction years ago, and now are just understood as part of what the complexity of the human body is. So I don’t think it’s an exaggeration really, I think it’s just a sort of extrapolation into the future that I’m undertaking with this movie.

Why is now the time to do this film?

Well I wrote this script for Crimes of the Future in around 1998-99, so it’s over 20 years old and there were a couple of attempts to get it made and for various reasons it didn’t get financed. That happens, that’s not unusual, but it was only when the producer Robert Lantos phoned me and said, ‘You know, have you looked at your old scripts,’ and I said ‘Because of its science-fiction technology core, I’m sure it’s completely irrelevant now.’ And he said ‘No, you should re-read it, it’s more relevant than ever.’ I thought that’s a good line, and I read it and I thought he was right. I’ve never been much for prophecy, I don’t think of art as being prophetic, but you can anticipate some things almost by accident, especially when you’re writing something that is basically science-fiction as this movie is. You stumble upon something that has a trajectory to the future, and this story did have that and it was still pretty valid. I think people are more aware now, for example, of the toxicity of the environment that we are creating on Earth and how we are in some ways destroying the earth, we’re certainly altering it, there’s no question about that. To see how the idea that technology is really the extension of the human body, and the human will… there was a time when people thought that technology could be inhuman, and for me technology was always a human thing. I think in fact it’s a reflection, it’s a mirror that reflects back to us what we are, the good parts and the bad parts, the destructive parts and the excitingly creative humane parts so there is that element in this movie that talks about the reflection of what we are in technology.
Production notes

Directed by: David Cronenberg
©: SPF (Crimes) Productions Inc, Argonauts Crimes Productions S.A.
Produced in association with: Argonauts Productions, Crave, CBC Films, ERT, Rocket Science
With the participation of: Ekome, Greek Film Center, Ontario Creates
Produced in association with: Wiffle Films
Presented by: Neon, Téléfilm Canada, Ingenious Media
With: Serendipity Point Films
Executive Producers: Joe Iacono, Aïda Tannyan, Peter Touche, Christelle Conan, Tom Quinn, Jeff Deutchman, Christian Parkes, Thorsten Schumacher
Co-executive Producers: Victor Hadida, Victor Loewy, Charles Tremblay, Ariane Giroux-Dallaire
Produced by: Robert Lantos
Producers: Panos Papahadzis, Steve Solomos
Co-producers: Laura Lanktree, Michael Kölmel, Dietmar Güntsche
Associate Producers: Bonnie Do, Maria Laskaridou
Casting by: Deirdre Bowen
Written by: David Cronenberg
Director of Photography: Douglas Koch
Visual Effects by: Rocket Science VFX
Special Effects: Alahouzos Studio FX, Walter Klassen FX
Editor: Christopher Donaldson
Production Designer: Carol Spier
Costume Designer: Magiou Trikerioti
Make-up Designer: Evi Zafiropoulou
Key Hair Stylist: Chronis Tzimos
Prosthetics Provided by: Black Spot FX
Music by: Howard Shore

Viggo Mortensen (Saul Tenser)
Léa Seydoux (Caprice)
Scott Speedman (Lang Dotrice)
Kristen Stewart (Timlin)
Welket Bungué (Cope)
Don McKellar (Wippet)
Yorgos Pirpassopoulos (Dr Nasatir)
Tanaya Beatty (Berst)
Nadia Litz (Router)
Lihi Kornowski (Djuna)
Denise Capezza (Odile)
Sotiris Siozos (Brecken)
Michalis Valasoglou (NVU agent)
Tassos Karahalios (Klinek)
Efi Kantza (Adrienne Berceau)
Jason Bitter (Tarr)
Penelope Tsilika (beauty spa woman)

Canada-UK-Greece 2022
108 mins

Vertigo release

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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