Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All Too Human

Directed By Vincenzo Natali

If you eliminate the science fiction elements of “Splice” you are left with a film about a couple where the woman wants to get pregnant and the man is more concerned with his career.

The woman goes ahead and get’s pregnant anyway without telling the man. He immediately perceives the child as a threat to their relationship.

As the child grows up they fear what will happen if it has contact with the rest of the world, so the woman moves her back to her own childhood home (also the scene of her traumatic, isolated, abused upbringing).

The three grow more isolated in their private world.

The parents feeling more and more godlike in their absolute control of the environment and fascinated by what they have made.

The child grows angry and confused wrestling with its own self-definition and sexual maturity.

The three destroy each other.

Don’t let the fact that “Splice” involves genetic monsters and pseudo-science distract you.

It’s about the meltdown of a relationship caused by a pregnancy and the resentments and other feelings that dare not be named, which eventually destroy the small nuclear unit.

It is considered rude if not downright misanthropic to suggest to anyone who is having or has had a baby, regardless of context, that their offspring or relationship is anything but a blessing.

Films like “Eraserhead”, “Brood”,“Rosemary’s Baby”, to a lesser extent Larry Cohen's "It's Alive", all mutate fears of parental responsibility into paranoia and horror.

It is tempting to compare this film to numerous other mad scientist body conscious or venereal horror flicks like “Species” and “The Fly”, but what is most affecting and disconcerting about “Splice” are its psychological dimensions.

Adrian Brody does something in the film that caused the theater I was in to gasp and let out a mutually shocked what-the-fuuuuuck?

What we were reacting to was not just visual shock, but the shock of seeing a taboo violated.

This scene transgresses (though is not “transgressive”) social mores, and these and there ramifications are what leave the bad taste in our mouths, the violated laws of science, pale by comparison.

Regardless of biology it's our understanding of the relationships that comes into question.

This scene is only possible if we believe in our understanding of the family.

Otherwise it's just animal action in motion.

Later, we witness Sarah Polley become her parents without ever having seen them on screen.

I had expected “Splice” to be a standard man-makes-monster-monster-runs-amok and throwaway para-military group arrives to fight said beast and provide requisite body count.

The film does have enough gore to please fans, but it's awkward feelings and all to human foibles that serve as the crux of the tale.

“Splice” instead defied my expectations, and unlike the lackluster “Monsters”, proved its defiance was a means and not just an end.

It doesn’t surprise me that people ignored “Splice”, Vincenzo Natali’s too smart for its own good “Cube”, was similarly slept on by critics; though looking back it’s proven itself one of the decades most creative and insightful genre works.

I don’t know think “Splice” will be the quite the cult-sleeper “Cube” was, but it was one of the most interesting theater viewing experiences I had this year.

Though the ending does conform to genre standards when it all goes horribly, horribly wrong, it’s terrors mirror earlier events in such a way that it doesn't (at least for this viewer), feel like a distraction, unlike the late in the game slasher-fest in Danny Boyle’s otherwise interesting “Sunshine”.

Like Polly and Brody’s characters I didn’t know what I was really getting into with “Splice” until it was too late to turn away.

Like them I was fascinated, repulsed, and impressed, but unliked then I came away having enjoyed the experience.

It was something else.

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