Brandon Cronenberg’s deep dives into toxic tourism and the privilege or the rich, but does it make him more or less of a nepo baby? Perhaps he was never a nepo-baby but a director with his own vision influenced by a great director who happens to be his father.
Nepo-baby is the word of the moment. If you don’t know the meaning of nepo-baby it’s a pretty basic concept. In short, it’s when a child of a famous actor gets work in Hollywood based only on the fact of who their parents are and not because they have talent or put the work in, think Dakota Johnson, Willow and Jaden Smith, or Nicole Richie. But for every talentless person who’s riding their parents’ coattails there are those who very much have talent. It’s still nepotism and the doors open a lot sooner than if their parents weren’t famous, but at least they have something to show for it.
Brandon Cronenberg is one such child of a famous person. You may have heard of his father David Cronenberg. Cronenberg the elder has been directing movies since the 70s. He’s worked with some of the best actors to ever be captured on film. Although he’s most known for horror movies, Cronenberg has done dramas as well as action movies. His status in Hollywood as one of the best directors to pick up a camera was cemented long before his son’s first movie was released.
By saying that Brandon Cronenberg is living in his father’s shadow does not mean that Infinity Pool is a bad movie. And by saying he’s living in David Cronenberg’s shadow doesn’t mean Brandon Cronenberg is a bad director. Plenty of directors wear their influences on their sleeves. Nicolas Winding Refn wants to be Michael Mann so much it’s painful. Yorgos Lanthimos channels Stanley Kubrick with every movie he makes. Yet, we don’t say they’re living in anyone’s shadow. On the contrary, we call them “geniuses.”
CRONENBERG MOVIE GENIUS
Brandon Cronenberg is far from being a genius, but with each passing movie he gets closer. His first movie, Antiviral, was a harsh critique on celebrity worship. Possessor questioned the nature of reality using assassins who took over people’s bodies in order to fulfill kill contracts. Each of these movies share many similarities with his father’s movies. Infinity Pool is Cronenberg’s discourse on toxic tourism and the privilege of the rich. Although it’s not the movie that moves Brandon Cronenberg out from his father’s shadow it moves the needle in the right direction.
The hook in Infinity Pool are the clones created for rich tourists who have committed unthinkable crimes. James (Alexander Skarsgård), Gabi (Mia Goth), Alban (Jalil Lespertz), and their rich friends commit murders that in the normal world would be labeled as “thrill kills.” In the real world families sometimes get justice when a loved one is murdered. In the world of Infinity Pool the rich keep going back to the endless well of an ATM. But at what cost?
CLONE BY ANY OTHER NAME
They’re so wrapped up in what they can do because they’re rich none of them stop to think if these clones have souls? If the clones are an exact duplicate of the original and if you believe in a higher power and the concept of a soul then the argument should be made that these clones have souls. So every time a clone is killed in place of one of the rich tourists a murder is committed. Yet no one stops to think about it as murder and if they did they know they could get away with it because James does the exact thing after his clone is executed for his killing of a local farmer. This is the privilege of the rich on full display- no consequences to your own actions.
Though it’s not implicitly stated James and his new friends are toxic tourists. Tourists ravage the countries they visit. They leave behind tons of litter every year in their wake. Companies exploit and hurt wildlife for the enjoyment of tourists. Most of the money tourists spend does not stay in the country. The very countries needing money are often the poorest and the poorest rarely see the benefits of tourism. We’re told Li Tolqa, the fictional country in Infinity Pool, is a poor country. Shots of high fences topped with menacing barbed wire drives the point home.
THE LAST TOURIST
How did a poor country manage to perfect cloning before the West is easily explained as “holistic methods.” Which is neither here nor there. It doesn’t play into the larger narrative. When James pays for another clone, using Em’s money, the beneficiary of the monetary transaction is not the citizen in the resort preparing the food for tourists nor is it the family of a murdered person. The only satisfaction the family gets is being able to execute the “person” responsible for the death of their loved one. The only people benefiting from the transaction are James and his friends who will go on to leave more wreckage in their wake and the already rich people involved in the cloning for cash operation.
In the end James remains at the resort as the rainy season begins and the other rich tourists leave for home. He’s realized Gabi and the others are not the people they claim to be. They’re not poking a finger in the eye of society or what is good and right. They’re mundane, shallow, and everything they said they hated while they were making James kill police detectives and his very clone. They talk about painting their homes, redecorating, and shopping. James stays behind a broken man, he’s not made better by nighttime perversions but shattered by the things he has done. His privledge has not helped him in the least. The tourist is now a resident.