Sunday Editor’s Pick: Spider (2002)

by on February 6, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sun Feb 12 at 3:00 at Museum of the Moving Image [Program & Tix]


And that’s all folks. The David Cronenberg retrospective comes to a close at MOMI. But we probably need a rest from our exhaustive coverage, and they sign off with what many aficionados consider to be one of the director’s greatest masterworks.
Nathan Lee in his feature for Alt Screen:

One of Cronenberg’s purest, most controlled films. Adapted by Patrick McGrath from his own novel, this immaculately conceived character study maps the contours of subjectivity as it is drawn and redrawn in response to the discovery (and recovery) of psychic terrain. The opening shot conflates the arrival of our protagonist with a departure from reality: Spider (Ralph Fiennes) disembarks from a commuter train and into his own private eXistenZ. Released from nowhere to confront his now here, Spider checks into a shabby residence for the mentally ill and shuffles about a landscape of gasworks, dank canals, and forgotten garden plots. Stopping here and there to collect bits of miscellaneous debris in his pockets, he confides his experience to a journal in an illegible script.
Just as McGrath’s novel is the transcript of this journal, Cronenberg’s film plays as the adaptation of the text. Spider operates on a narrative double register: we are watching the movie that Spider projects for himself, assembled from a patchwork of memory, fantasy, and shards of the Real. The negotiation of this simultaneity is a formal tour de force, even more impressive than the doubling of Dead Ringers or the dual procedures of A Dangerous Method, a movie devoted to analyzing people in the process of analyzing themselves. Reading Spider as a sub-Oedipal psychodrama (a mental mystery about the origin of psychosis in Mommy issues) is to overlook this deep fusion of representation and concept, as well as the universal nature of its tragedy: the struggle to make consciousness cohere. It is, like so many Cronenberg films, a feedback allegory. The spider: a creature who externalizes part of itself (the web) to relay signals (the twitching of trapped insects) back to central processing.

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