The Null Device

Spider

Tonight I went to see Spider, David Cronenberg's most recent film, about a mentally ill man recently released from decades in an asylum, finding himself near his childhood home and coming to terms with old memories, and whether or not his father murdered his mother. The main character, Ralph Fiennes, plays an almost silent role, mumbling incoherently to himself, scrawling illegibly in a notebook, skulking about and performing various seemingly irrational actions; soon the film shows him literally visiting the scenes of his childhood (as they are in his mind), invisibly lurking in the background as the dramas play themselves out; the film all falls together in the end, with his quirks all taking on new meanings. The film is set in the bleak working-class London of kitchen-sink films (the photography and sets emphasise the coldness and bleakness very well; the traditional English wallpaper is just one of the details), only rather than literal-minded socialist-realist homily we get a more internal, psychological film. This film is a break from Cronenberg's usual plastic sex-horror, having virtually no special effects in the traditional sense (unless one counts clever quirks of casting).

I'd recommend it. Probably not an ideal date movie, or the thing to see if you're suicidally depressed, but it's a very good portrayal of mental illness. (It'd probably be on my list of Best Schizophrenia Films of All Time, alongside Angels of the Universe.)

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