Traveling abroad is an excellent way to expand on your horizons, learn about new cultures, and gain a great deal of respect and understanding for the world in which we all live. However, for anyone who’s ever stayed in a beach resort where you’re asked not to leave the property, it’s easy to see the vast contrast between the tourism luxury at the hotel, and the abject poverty that exists just a few hundred yards away.
Brandon Cronenberg’s (yes, the son of David Cronenberg) latest film Infinity Pool explores some of these ideas. But of course with a visceral, surreal, and downright disturbing twist that demonstrates the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in terms of compellingly disturbing filmmaking.
Opening on the fictional island nation of La Tolqa, we see a typical beach resort occupied by rich people going on vacation. Among them are novelist James (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman). They meet another couple, including the very eccentric commercial actress Gabi (Mia Goth)
Despite being married, Gabi is clearly enthralled with James, and makes advances on him. It seems that after absolutely dominating indie horror last year with X and Pearl, Mia Goth is starting off this year strong with another incredibly unhinged performance that’s both terrifying and a little sympathetic. It’s also fun to get to hear her use her actual accent this time.
After a fun day out (with a pretty random and uncomfortable moment for James), they drive back to the resort at night, but tragedy strikes when James accidentally strikes a pedestrian, instantly killing him. Already being nervous about being off the resort property, the group reluctantly decides to not contact the authorities, for fear that this is a nation with fewer freedoms than they’re used to. And they simply head back to the resort, hoping no one will know.
Exotic Exploitation (Minor Spoilers)
The next morning, police are at James and Em’s hotel door, and they apparently know everything already. In their country and culture, it’s customary that when someone kills someone else, the victim’s family is entitled to execute the guilty party themselves. However, the detective (played brilliantly by Thomas Kretchmann) offers James a deal.
For a substantial fee, James can have a clone made and the clone will be executed instead of him. James agrees, just to find that Gabi, and her entire entourage regularly do this. The group of rowdy rich tourists joyride around the small island nation, killing people, getting into trouble, essentially doing whatever they want. And if they’re caught, they just get a clone made and let that clone suffer the consequences.
There’s an obvious not so subtle reference to both the way tourism exploits developing nations, as well as how the rich never really face accountability for what they do. While the nation itself is fictional, it was shot on location at a resort in Croatia, and it serves to represent any resort where the wealthy vacation while those staffing the resort live in the worst poverty imaginable not that far away.
And while the cloning element is something out of pure science fiction, it’s the perfect metaphor for similar resort areas will feature five star restaurants serving lobster, while people just outside the walls (who are often working in the resort) are starving.
Nations like this will cater to the whims of tourists at the expense of locals, but to be fair to them, they’re in a difficult position. For many of them, tourism can often be the primary source of their GDP, and without it, they’d be in an even worse financial situation.
Even as the detective gets frustrated with how many crimes these unhinged partiers rack up, he knows that the money they pay for the service is probably what’s keeping his entire police department funded. We watch as James descends into this world of hedonistic madness, and given that he married into money and didn’t come from it originally, he serves as a compelling audience surrogate.
And the exploitation includes the clones themselves. Who are essentially just brought into the world, merely hours old and immediately killed in violent ways. They suffer horrific fates for the actions committed by the donor whose DNA created them.
There’s also a fascinating question posed as to whether it’s really the clones being killed or if the clones are the ones emerging free, and how would someone even know. But if we’re to believe the film is being tonally consistent, I think it has to be the clones who are being executed.
The further down this rabbit hole goes, the more James becomes horrified with his newfound compatriots. Even his wife Em, leaves the resort without him because she doesn’t like who he’s becoming.
Eventually even he becomes afraid of them, especially Gabi as he begins to realize that even he is just a plaything to them (most likely because he wasn’t from money and they wanted to toy with him by bringing him in their circle).
And of course this film wouldn’t be in the Cronenberg family if it wasn’t incredibly bizarre and surreal. We definitely need to acknowledge the way it plays with visuals, especially as James goes further into the hedonistic rabbit hole. The use of color grading, flashing lights (to the point that movie actually had an epileptic warning at the beginning), and surreal dreamlike scenes all serve as the perfect visual representations of this strange world James is entering.
All the while, even as he’s disturbed by it, he’s equally complicit in everything they’re doing. And by the end, he’s just as guilty as they are, even if he regrets it and they don’t. It demonstrates how even someone can grow up working class, but once they get money, can easily fall into the same entitled behavior as spoiled trust fund brats.
It’s honestly difficult to pin Infinity Pool down to just a single genre. It definitely has elements of sci-fi when the cloning process, but it’s very much meant to be modern day and the world we live in. There are certainly scenes that are disturbing and horrific, but you never get the sense that the film is trying to scare you.
Rather, it’s an incredibly effective thriller that uses bits and pieces from different genres to tell its story effectively. It’s the kind of film that will really make you think, while also making you question your own morals and sanity throughout, and that’s an amazing combination!
What did you think of Infinity Pool? Let us know in the comments!
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