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Spider (2003)
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Review Date: February 24, 2003
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Patrick McGrath
Producers: David Cronenberg, Samuel Hadida
Actors:
Ralph Fiennes as Dennis Cleg
Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Cleg
Gabriel Byrne as Bill Cleg
Plot:
A strange man is let out of an asylum and allowed to live in a housing complex for former mental institution patients. The man doesn't speak much but slowly begins to piece together some of the memories from his childhood and soon uncovers a lot more than he anticipated. The operative word in that last sentence is "slowly".
Critique:
An extremely slow-moving psychological drama with very little dialogue but plenty of impressive acting, SPIDER might just be considered as the "art-house" counterpart to the 2002 Best Picture Oscar winner, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, with an inside-out look at the mental disorder known as schizophrenia. Unlike the latter film however, SPIDER doesn't provide for a happy ending, doesn't provide for many colors or any kind of "love affair" and definitely doesn't pander to the audience. Ron Howard's flick also placed a lot more emphasis on relationships and emotions, as opposed to this one which, in traditional Cronenberg fashion, relies more on mood, symbolism, darkness and metaphors (a lot of "silent" scenes are also sprinkled throughout). The extra-sluggish way of working through the story didn't really bother me, in fact, I liked how the film had Fiennes communicating his feelings via body movements, mumblings and flashback scenarios. I did, however, think that there would be a lot more to the picture than there ultimately ended up being, and considering the number of "mindfuck" flicks over the past few years, I guess SPIDER came in a little under the benchmark. Sure, the story is wrapped in some sense of mystery and we find out certain bits as we move along, but the ultimate discovery really isn't much of a stretch and almost made the long and arduous journey somewhat anti-climactic (I say "long" only because the film felt longer than its actual 98 minute runtime).

Having said that, I absolutely loved its production value, which was idyllically bleak and added to the film's already gloomy storyline. Howard Shore's score also brought everyone down effectively, while the stripped-down streets of England concretized the film's dire outlook. While watching the movie, it started to feel like a morbid conglomeration of Kafka's "Metamorphosis", David Lynch's ERASERHEAD and LOST HIGHWAY, Sigmund Freud's "Oedipus" complex, as well as films like MEMENTO and DARK CITY. If you're going to discuss acting, the film scores even more points, especially via the brilliant portrayal presented here by Ralph Fiennes as the man who cannot remember much from his past, but is agonizingly trying to piece it all back together. Gabriel Byrne also shows up to drink up a storm (great man), while Miranda Richardson astonished with not one, but two separate characterizations, one of which I wasn't even aware of until the end credits. Great job, girl...loved the slutty chick! Nobody's going to leave the theater jumping for joy after seeing this flick, but if you like films that delve inside the human psyche, whether it be sane or insane, real or perceived, you will definitely have much to discuss after this journey through the human condition. I liked it a lot, especially its web metaphors, the sexual confusion between son and mother, Cronenberg's remarkable eye and ability to mindmelt the audience with this one twisted individual, as well as its many claustrophobic moments. I also appreciated how the film visually acknowledged its lead character as he relived his past experiences. Nice. A definite downer but wonderfully portrayed and a pleasantly dark experience all around.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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