Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool explores the ways that the wealthy have different rules than the rest of us. Set against the backdrop of a resort vacation in an otherwise destitute (fictional) country, the film showcases not only how the rich view the less fortunate, but also how the law bends to their will. As one of the locals puts it, they see this place as their “playground.” As long as they are able to bribe their way out of the legal ramifications of their actions, they’re free to do as they please.
However, with Cronenberg at the helm, you know that the film isn’t going to be as simple as that. As in his prior film Possessor, he presents us with questions of identity and the self. Who am I? What am I capable of? In this way, Infinity Pool embeds deeper psychological challenges within a story that’s essentially a critique of capitalism and classist society.
While I don’t want to write a whole compare and contrast of Possessor and Infinity Pool, it’s fair to say that some of the former’s themes show up again, but taken from a different perspective. In addition to the themes he’s clearly interested in exploring, Cronenberg also has a very specific aesthetic and there’s a lot of visual overlap between the two films. But I can’t stress enough that this is a separate work that deserves to be appraised on its own terms. Regardless of how many commonalities we may find between the two films, there exists a freshness that will keep viewers interested.
It’s not hard to remain engaged when Mia Goth gets so much screen time. I’m sure this won’t come to anyone’s surprise, but her performance in this film stands out among even the most captivating casts. Not only can she mesmerize with her skilled line readings and expressions, but her character consistently contains the most mystery and intrigue.
As much as Goth stands out, I’ll admit there weren’t any performances I was disappointed with. Alexander Skarsgård’s James Foster confronts a multitude of feelings and mental states throughout the film, and Skarsgård’s skilled portrayal can’t be denied, especially when comparing it to the singular emotional experience with The Northman (that emotion being rage, if you haven’t seen it).
Visually, this film can be a challenge. When I bought tickets, I was prompted with a warning that it contains images that can be triggering for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Even beyond that, the way the camera moves is discordant and almost Lynchian, though still done with such an attention to detail that audiences won’t lose their place in the scene. From the opening shots of the resort through the more psychedelic and hallucinatory sequences, Cronenberg challenges audiences to leave, while presenting such an incredible story and setting that it becomes impossible to do so.
Cronenberg seems to balance whimsical and fun with horror and haunting, never diving too deeply into either tone, which may read as inconsistent or discordant for some. I appreciated the balance, as it makes the viewing experience more enjoyable, given that there are moments of levity. Though I wouldn’t call the movie a fun experience overall, I’d say this tonal discordance plays out in accordance with Skarsgård’s experience, simultaneously dark and twisted while also being a pleasurable joy.
The rich have played the villain in horror since Dracula wanted to buy up real estate in London. But the difference between then and now is that Dracula was simply a villain who was rich, whereas in the horror films of the last 40 years the villain’s motives often center on their wealth. Films like Society and They Live depict the rich as an entirely separate species, while more contemporary representations focus on the social differences between us and them, as with Ready or Not and The Menu. Infinity Pool builds on the latter representation to hyperbolically demonstrate how the legal system caters to their wealth.