Author: Felix Stalder --- Date: 10/10/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC


A Review of CRASH a David Cronenberg film

Staring: James Spader, Deborah Unger, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Rosanne Arquette

By Felix Stalder

To start with my conclusion--CRASH is a daring and problematic film. It is worth seeing because it lacks almost everything one expects of a movie. While it is a straightforward narrative - a dull, yuppy commercial movie director gets drawn into a grotesque, subcultural scene obsessed with car crashes and sex - the film has almost no development, not in the way the story unfolds and especially not in the psychology of the characters. Throughout the entire film the figures remain at a rigid, rarely changing the emotional distance from one another and the viewer. No one knows anything more about the characters after 90 minutes than what was obvious 5 minutes into the film. Despite the abundance of violent accidents and sex scenes, which turn the film into a rather monotonous, steady rhythm, there is no element of action, shock, or pornography. People talking to each other, dying, engaged in all kinds of sex never really lose their air of indifference; they remain psychologically and emotionally discrete. The film lacks so much psychological motivation that one of the main characters literally has to explain why he is obsessed with car crashes, even after this explicit, verbal explanation - an uninspired remix of the latest cyber-body-theories - the characters and the story are still less than convincing but continue for another 30 minutes or so of crash-sex-crash-sex (it ends with sex, if I remember correctly).

Despite its vagueness, the film's narrative is completely sealed. This very tight structure leaves no room for associative interpretations. The images are always one dimensional and at no point is one allowed to think beyond them, there is never anything beyond the flickers of the image before us.

The film becomes as boring as the characters are bored by the world around them. But this film is missing so much that one has to think about what is not there. The characters seem to have only a faint idea of who they are, they remain alienated and disoriented no matter how much they try to treat themselves with real experiences in doses of higher and higher shocks to their systems. The entire film seems to float in a dreamlike estrangement. People meet, but do not connect; cars crash, but in the steady stream of cars one more or one less is insignificant. Things just pass, they leave no traces, even when the ‘maître de ceremonie’ of historic crashes (remember the Jane-Mansfield-James-Dean-crash?) proudly presents the scars on his body.

The question of mutation and ambiguity that recur in Cronenberg's films, the constant change of bodily nature from VIDEODROME to NAKED LUNCH is gone. In CRASH things are simply as they appear: everything is in a state of unchanging boredom. We are now for Cronenberg nolonger is a society of hyperchange but of hyperstatsis.

CRASH is one of those unpleseant movies that work like a psychiatrist’s test: there is something one sees and there is nothing one doesn’t. And to be frank, I don’t see much. But maybe you do.

Felix Stalder, Toronto

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tim --

From your review, it sounds as if Cronenberg has perfectly captured the flavor of JG Ballard's novel, as well as the essence of much of modern culture. I can't wait to see it.

some idiot --

hey just thought i'd reply to tell yall dat Kathy Acker talks about Crash! in the lastest issue of 21 c hey you don't even have to buy the magazine to read da article just go here should b up dere sometime soon no i don't work 4 2lc or anything like that l8R