Brandon Cronenberg writing/directing, with Alexander Skarsgard and Mia Goth starring. I don’t even want to know anything else going in, just wind that shit up and throw it at my head!

Infinity Pool opens with James Foster (Skarsgaard), a novelist who published one book six years ago and he’s been struggling to write a second one ever since. You know the type. He’s married to Em (Cleopatra Coleman), whose father is also conveniently his publisher.

In a desperate search for inspiration, James and Em have taken a vacation to a luxury resort on the fictional tropical island of Latoka. Trouble is, the resort guests are forbidden from going outside the resort grounds because Latoka is a poor developing crime-ridden hellhole. Furthermore, the locals are displeased by the rich white colonizing assholes who’ve come to appropriate their culture and take over their land.

(Side note: Upon closer inspection, it turns out that there is indeed a “Lautoka”, which is the second-largest city on the island nation of Fiji. Based on the many superficial differences, however, this is most likely a coincidence.)

In short order, James meets up with Gabi and Alban Bauer, respectively played by Mia Goth and Jalil Lespert, who’ve been coming every year to the resort for quite some time. Long story short, the two couples jump the border fence to tour the countryside and James ends up killing a local farmer by vehicular manslaughter. Under the laws and customs of Latoka, this means that James should be punished by death.

But there’s a wrinkle: Cloning technology.

Yes, James has the option of paying through the nose to make a perfect clone of himself, complete with all the memories — and therefore guilt — of the original. Thus the victim’s loved ones get the satisfaction of watching James die, James gets to stay among the living — albeit with the trauma of watching his perfect double get killed — and Latoka gets a nice bit of cash flow without endangering diplomatic relations with the wealthy western nations. Win/win!

At this point, you might be wondering how a tiny developing nation supposedly drowning in poverty could possibly have access to cloning technology several decades ahead of what’s scientifically possible right now. The simplest answer is that this is an allegory. Making any degree of literal or logical sense is not as important as exploring the bigger sociopolitical themes.

See, it’s an old established rule that “punishable by fine” means “legal for wealthy people”. So it is that James has unwittingly found himself among an exclusive class of resort guests — Gabi and Alban among them — who’ve committed egregious crimes, only to pay a fine for the transgression while their clones take the bulk of the punishment. As a direct result, these rich white entitled assholes aren’t afraid of anything — not even death! — because they know they can do literally anything and buy their way out of any punishment. They’ve done it before, after all.

Never mind all the unwitting innocent island natives whose lives are potentially ruined by the crimes of the careless white assholes. Never mind the fact that the local government is theoretically capable of running out of patience and abolishing or commuting the clone death, and the resort guests are screwed if that happens. Oh, and let’s not forget that James is married to his money — if Em gets fed up with his antics and leaves him, she takes his money with her so he can’t afford another clone and he’s SOL.

None of that matters. Not to the wealthy white privileged assholes who are only concerned with whatever their hedonistic immoral pleasures are in the moment.

I also feel compelled to point out the grotesque masks that serve as a recurring motif throughout the movie. The masks are used as part of a local custom observed in this time of year, and replicas are conveniently available to resort guests at the gift shop. The masks are designed in this bizarre “body horror” kind of way, and I can’t make any logical connection between that and “Here comes the rainy season.” On a literal level, the design makes no sense at all. But on an allegorical level, as a symbol for cultural appropriation, the masks themselves make a lot of sense.

The film was clearly built as a satire of capitalism, a case of white privilege and wealthy entitlement taken to the most deranged extreme possible. That all comes through loud and clear. This despite all the clutter that keeps getting in the way.

For instance, there’s one point when the film raises the possibility that the Latoka government could finally lose their patience, and it’s heavily implied that they’ll finally take permanent disciplinary action against James and his new miscreant friends. But then the film chickens out and nothing is ever done with this potential angle. Likewise, it’s a constant underlying threat that James could potentially be fucked with a death sentence if he ever needs a clone and Em isn’t around to provide the money for it, but this possibility is never explicitly mentioned and nothing is ever done with it.

More importantly, there’s the matter of the visuals. While Cronenberg is uniquely gifted at crafting unsettling and off-putting visuals, he does have a habit of taking things too far. My personal favorite examples concern EXTREMELY tight close-up shots, such that two characters could be having a conversation and we can only see a character’s eye or lips or ear taking up the entire screen. I don’t get the point of that at all.

But of course the film’s most iconic visuals come during the trippier moments, which also double as the bulk of the film’s sexual/nude content. Even though I’m not epileptic, I was nonetheless grateful for the warning that came up before the start of the film because the flashing images physically hurt. These hallucinations and shifting/flashing images are bombastic as they are incoherent. There’s definitely some kind of method to the madness here, but the sequences are nonetheless so inconsequential and opaque that we probably could’ve clipped a good five or ten minutes from those sequences and lost nothing of value.

Though writer/director Brandon Cronenberg is indisputably the real star here, full credit must be given to the actors who do so much to sell this bugfuck capitalist allegory. It certainly helps that Alexander Skarsgaard is in the lead — if he could anchor a Robert Eggers jam, playing the lead for a Cronenberg picture wouldn’t be too much of a sea change.

I know that Mia Goth has been getting a lot of rave reviews for her performance, which leads me to wonder how many critics have ever seen a Mia Goth movie before. Has everyone else already forgotten X and Pearl? Did anybody else ever see Nymphomaniac? A Cure for Wellness? Suspiria (2018)? High Life? The House (2022)? I’m astounded that Mia Goth has been churning out great performances in this lane for a solid decade and y’all are only now picking up on that. If you want a sexy and crazy femme fatale for your high-concept work of gut-churning psychological prestige horror, Goth’s your girl. She comes ready-made for that.

The supporting cast is loaded with brave actors who capably help Skarsgaard and Goth to sell the insanity on the screen, but the MVP is easily Thomas Kretschmann. In the role of Detective Thresh, Kretschmann basically serves as the personification of law and order on Latoka. Thus he’s responsible for selling such an outrageous concept as the cloning scheme. This whole plot and premise would’ve fallen apart if Kretschmann didn’t play it just right, and he beautifully threads so many needles perfectly.

Infinity Pool can get pretentious and obtuse, and the film feels overlong even at two hours. On the other hand, that excess plays well into the notion of an anti-capitalist allegory and the trippy visuals add to the unsettling tone so crucial to Cronenberg Jr.’s brand of prestige horror. The plot and premise can’t hold up to the barest scrutiny, but it all works beautifully well as a demented takedown of the One Percent and why it’s a bad idea to have wealthy entitled white people with no accountability whatsoever.

Even in spite of all the flaws, the movie accomplishes everything it set out to do. On those grounds, I can give it a recommendation.


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