Wednesday, 22 September 2010
David Cronenberg's 'The Fly', 1986
The remake! Another film I was really excited to see. I've heard many different opinions but now I've seen it I'd say this quote from Empire Magazine succinctly describes it as David Cronenberg's "most accessible film, meshing his perennial obsessions with disease, decay and metamorphosis into an exuberantly handled, shamelessly melodramatic love story - albeit a love story in which one partner is a pus-packed bluebottle."
After watching it I noticed that despite it being a very different film to the original in content, there were a couple of similar themes. The film is obviously of the horror genre and its narrative still features the female struggling to help her partner and stop him from becoming a 'thing', as it was put in the 1958 version. And the film is still used as a conduit to portray another cultural fear but this time of disease, and the most prominent of the time were HIV and AIDS. During the 1980's there was a huge fear of this disease as no one really understood what it was but that is was transmitted through sex and so the gay and 'promiscuous' community was stigmatised because of it. The idea that these 'dirty' things that happen behind closed doors will make you 'dirty'.
The transformation that Seth (the unlucky scientist) has to endure is grosteque and appears to be very painful, much like the transition people have to go through when they've contracted AIDS or HIV. The lesions across his face and on his arms are a common ailment of these diseases and the gradual loss of nails and excretion of bodily fluids are other side effects of the body's gradual deterioration. The bodily fluids are another reference to the sexual nature of the disease and how squeamish we are of them. The sexual aspect is again addressed when the 'honeymoon period' of his transformation starts, he feels energised and better than ever after his relationship with the leading lady lead him to use his teleporter and become, unbeknownst to him, combined with a fly. It's after this 'contraction' of fly DNA that his body starts disfiguring and so his "bodily transformation and sexual desire are linked". The character Seth adequately addresses the issue when he says the lead female character "can't break past societies fear of the flesh" and she then plays the role of the public's perception of the disease, being unable to understand the changes and therefore distancing herself from him.
On a more basic level though, the body horror used in this film is still extremely effective now. The reason it's so effective is because "the bodily interiors cease to be private spaces", humanity still keeps their body and its fluids at arms length and it's these films that address it directly. It's the "invasion of external beings" that really disturbs people, the fact that something they don't know about or cant control has joined to them and all they can do is wait and watch as their bodies gradually reveal the pain and decay they have to suffer through. David Cronenberg has mastered grabbing the audience and forcing them to watch the horrors of disease and decay that they try so hard to ignore culturally.
Overall, a vulgar and fantastic film that I can't wait to own!