By Anna Bielak | May 22, 2012
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Writer: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Joe Pingue, Malcolm McDowell, Douglas Smith
Antiviral is a one man show. Unfortunately that man is not Brandon Cronenberg, but happily it is Caleb Landry Jones. His performance is more or less a hypnotic monodrama. There is originality in him. His expression is remarkable. He is truly conscious of every single step he takes within the outrageously complex story of Cronenberg’s feature debut. Speaking of talent — the main actor has everything that Cronenberg Junior lacks. By stating this, I am not trying to scratch out his name from the list of young filmmakers worth following. I am just not sure who the new director is and who he would like to be in the future.
Antiviral is a critical social commentary on the celebrity culture phenomena. Cronenberg sets the action in the (near?) future at an unnamed location. The film’s protagonist, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), is an employee of Lucas Clinic. Metaphorically speaking, he sells sensations and promises. Literally –- he trades in pathogenic viruses, specifically in ones related to the bizarre infections of famous people. He extracts viruses from the blood of celebrities and injects it directly into their fans’ veins. Syd allows anyone to be as beautiful and flawless on the surface as television stars are; yet, what is really happening with their bodies is more hair-raising than horror as a genre we know. The thirst for bodily perfection and pop star fame seems to be the most dangerous epidemic spreading around the world (ever!) — everyone wants to be infected!
One and all want to consume. There is even a shop in Cronenberg’s futuristic world where a scientist-butcher sells steaks made of meat that grown from the cells of worshiped celebrity bodies. Syd wanders within this world, having his own visions, desires and illnesses. He is like a performer on the clean, dreadfully white scene of a crime. Thick red blood ghoulishly drops from white sheets and pale infected flesh; it turns the film into visual journey with Syd as its lustful guide.
Brandon Cronenberg likes filmic minimalism. He focuses on details that have to be seen from every direction. He has many ideas; yet none of them are really that unique. After I had managed to get into the second screening of Antiviral at Cannes 2012, I understood that, in terms of art and craft, family bonds may remain stronger than anything. I cannot consider Brandon Cronenberg to be a fully-fledged artist. He is more like a maturing boy who is halfway to the doorstep, yet his is still turning back, checking to see if he is traveling in the right direction. Is he?