Friday, September 14, 2007

Spider (Cronenberg, 2002)


The human mind is a fragile nervous system of complex interconnected neurons firmly constructed similar to that of a “spider-web” that even with the slightest disruption can cause the structure to collapse. David Cronenberg’s Spider showcases one of the most successful deconstructions of mental illness that I have seen in my short time as a cinephile.

In a tour-de-force performance, Ralph Fiennes plays Dennis “Spider” Cleg, a disturbed man suffering from schizophrenia in the search of answers concerning his shady past as a young lad growing up in a small town in England. Sent to a safe-house for the mentally unstable, he spends most of his time in isolation; cooped up in a small, barren room intensely pouring over a small diary full of random symbols continuously mumbling incoherent thoughts. The story is told from Cleg’s distorted perspective which consequently brings into question whether or not his account is true or just a fabrication of his mind playing tricks on itself. This dichotomy allows for a fascinating subversive examination of psychosis.

Thankfully, Cronenberg is able to work with one of the most versatile actors in the industry and it is through Ralph Fiennes’ uncanny ability to portray a severely conflicted individual with perfect nuance and pathos that allows the poignant story to unfold in a deeply thought provoking manner. He spends the majority of the film mumbling his speech, staring wide-eyed as if on the verge of discovering something profound and yet, seems completely on the edge of sanity. It is a quiet, subdued performance where Fiennes relies more on his body language to convey his emotions. His behavioral patterns are spot-on, convincingly depicting a mentally unstable man struggling to overcome his affliction to make sense of the past. Rarely has an actor managed to step this deep into the murkiness of insanity as compellingly as Fiennes in this film.
[***1/2]

2 comments:

Justine said...

Happy you liked this so much, I've been meaning to see it for awhile now.

Jason said...

Funny, I tend to find Cronenberg's more recent works to be a lot more interesting and accessible than his early stuff. When you do get around to seeing it, be sure to let me know your thoughts. :)