Antiviral (2012) Review
Directed by: Brandon Cronenberg
Written by: Brandon Cronenberg
“Celebrities aren’t people. They’re a mass hallucination.”
Antiviral is Brandon Cronenberg’s feature film debut and it’s obvious that the writer/director spent his childhood on his father’s famous lap watching Scanners and Videodrome. Antiviral is a post-cautionary tale of celebrity worship extended out (and out, and OUT) to its most absurd stratosphere. The screenplay seems to be vaguely parodying its own high concept; a near-future where acolytes spend any amount of money on viruses, diseases and ailments that had originally blossomed inside a celebrity host. The buyer then has the virus injected into himself (herpes is an IMDB keyword).
The idea is to become closer to the celebrity. To be reminded they are human. Darker subplots reveal darker messages, celebrity cells are grown in tubes, a black market sustains itself on the sale of celebrity flesh and a wrinkle of corporate espionage sends the anti-hero Syd March on the run and all the while the cinematography remains laboratory crisp, giggling but never blinking. A general aura of understood perversion permeates.
In Antiviral’s piece de resistance Syd March sits in his closet allografted into some sort of Brazil-like contraption, his mouth protruding like a small radiator, his torso attached by tentacles to the device and his eyes searching desperately for the ceiling. As with so many new filmmakers, Gilliam is owed his dues. Yes Brandon has seen his father’s films and read his Kafka. As a director he is terrifyingly stoic and non-judgmental.
Brandon takes a scientific distance from his work and his characters and his screenplay’s dystopia of ideas. And the presentation is all the better for it. So much so that had Oldboy been remade next year I would have yelled for Brandon Cronenberg to be at the helm. An interesting, self-important and slightly flawed debut.