David Cronenberg searches for the soul in 'Cosmopolis'
Is there hope for mankind?
David Cronenberg mulls over the question. Remember, Cronenberg has directed such dark, disturbing and bleak films as "Scanners" (1981), "The Fly" (1986), "Existenz" (1999), "A History of Violence" (2005) and the current "Cosmopolis," based on Don DeLillo's 2003 dystopic novel.
"In my lifetime, yes, I think there's hope for mankind - but my lifetime might not be very long," Cronenberg said, laughing ominously at his own punch line. "The honest answer is yes and no. Who knows? It's such a huge question, but in the moment, as I'm riding my bicycle through the hills outside Toronto and it's quite beautiful and lovely, I say, 'I can't deny the reality of this, and it's great.' I have to feel very positive in that moment.
"At the same time, your head is very easily filled with reports of atrocities and calamities from all over the world," the filmmaker said, speaking by telephone from his home in Toronto. "When you're focused on that, you think, 'Oh my God, the human experiment is a disaster.' So you have both things, and I think you have to focus on those real moments that are positive and beautiful. You have children and grandchildren.
"It's a balancing act."
"Cosmopolis" stars Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, a reclusive, self-made billionaire who, in the near future, spends a day in a tricked-out limousine threading his way through Manhattan traffic en route to a barbershop. Occasionally associates (Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche) enter the limo to confer or to have sex with Packer. He also steps out of the limo several times in order to meet his wife (Sarah Gadon), get a haircut or, for an extended sequence near the film's end, confront a former employee (Paul Giamatti).
Cronenberg fans will find "Cosmopolis" very much of a piece with his filmography, particularly "Existenz." That film concerned the creation of a new virtual-reality game into which players directly - and cringe-inducingly - plugged themselves. In "Cosmopolis," Packer relies on virtual reality to simultaneously monitor and detach himself from the real world.
"The sort of strange virtual-reality element of 'Cosmopolis' does lead you to 'Existenz,' " Cronenberg conceded, "but thematically they're different. Eric was characterized by one of the investors in the movie - a man named Edouard Carmignac, who is a genuine French billionaire - to be completely accurate. Edouard invested in this movie because he felt he recognized many of his colleagues in Eric, that they do, in fact, create this kind of bubble reality that they live in and that is just completely disconnected from people's idea of human reality.
"So on that level 'Cosmopolis' is very realistic," Cronenberg said. "Of course, at the same time, there are many gamers who live mostly in a virtual world and, I suppose, 'Existenz' is still an accurate portrayal. So there is that crossover."
At first glance, Packer appears to be a soulless character. He initially exhibits little to no outward emotion, not while receiving updates about his dwindling finances, not during sex, not ever. That sense of detachment is enhanced by the limo, which is smooth-running, soundproof and bulletproof, with tinted windows that minimize Packer's view of outside events and prevent prying eyes from looking in at him.
"You can see his soul as the movie progresses, as he approaches his childhood," Cronenberg said, "because, really, we begin to realize that the barbershop represents his childhood. It's his childhood barbershop. It's where he used to live. It's where he came from.
"Eric wasn't born into money. I think you see Eric become more vulnerable and more childlike and naive, and when he's in the barber chair he becomes like himself as a child, before he'd erected this Eric character, this Master of the Universe guy. So you should gradually warm up to him as you realize how vulnerable and how wounded he is.
"It's why I cast Robert," Cronenberg added. "It's a very uncompromising performance. We don't go out of our way to make him more likable than he is, but you want to watch him. He's very charismatic, Rob."
"Cosmopolis" is Pattinson's show, and it's as far removed as it could be from the commercial gloss and sparkly vampires of the "Twilight" films in which Pattinson has starred as Edward Cullen. The actor has been in the news of late, owing to the demise of his relationship with "Twilight" co-star Kristen Stewart, but Cronenberg lauds his leading man for his often-overlooked, still largely untapped talents as an actor.
"Rob is in every scene of this movie," the filmmaker said, "and I needed a guy who could support that. His accent is spot-on - it's very much like Don DeLillo's accent. He brings a wry sense of humor, and he brings that strange emotionality that you feel from underneath because, as I say, it's not there from the beginning, because it's a journey in more ways than one.
"You have to see Eric evolve and, thanks to Rob, you do," Cronenberg said. "I think it's a spectacular performance, very nuanced and detailed."
Like everyone with a stake in "Cosmopolis," Cronenberg hopes that Pattinson's legions of "Twi-hard" fans will turn out en masse for "Cosmopolis." Based on the production of the film, he said, that might happen.
"The Twi-hards followed this movie hugely," Cronenberg said. "There were 20 to 30 sites devoted to 'Cosmopolis,' some of them really quite spectacular, professional and slick, and they were being done mostly by Twi-hards, who are mostly girls, and they were reading the book. They were reading the book and commenting on it, on these sites, before the movie was finished."
The director is clearly impressed.
"That was incredibly satisfying," he said. "They were loving the book and the idea that Rob was doing it, and they're supporting Rob's choice.
"I got a lot of props myself," Cronenberg added with a laugh, "because the Rob fans are rooting for him to show what he can do as an actor and, therefore, they loved me for giving him the chance.
"That was their attitude, though my attitude was that I felt lucky to have Rob."
Source => Reading Eagle / Via => Gossip Dance