Shivers (1975)

In Cronenberg films, external world is not really visible but there are some hints that express his vision. In Shivers, film starts with an advertisement and voice over which explains why a high-rise apartment is a great place to live in that era. This ad shows what society likes at that period, and it is kind of bourgeoisie because the building is in an island which is separated from other people, presumably poor people. People live a great lively life in there, until the parasite spreads. Although Cronenberg does not really show his side, It is obvious that Cronenberg empathizes with the parasite and the scientist in Shivers who has created it. He claims that new bourgeoisie society is over-rational and maybe hedonistic because their unconscious drives them to have an orgy party in the pool at the end of the film. Also in the building, nothing is real. There is a doctor but we hardly see him treat a person, there is a guard but he says his gun is just a procedure and he runs away when something happens.

Cronenberg seems to write scripts about the trends in that era. In 1970s high-rise buildings were popular in America and probably the idea of opening sequence of Shivers was taken from those buildings’ advertisements. “In New Orleans, 28 high rise buildings were constructed during the 1970s and 1980s” (Holmes 2013). Then “Subscription television became popular in the early 1980s when cable television began” (Wikipedia 2014). This development allowed Cronenberg to think more about tv and its future which led him to create Videodrome. “The 1990s were a decade of marked innovation in video gaming” (Wikipedia 2014). So Cronenberg has seen the future of gaming and problematized it to make his new film which is called eXistenZ. As can be seen, he sees what is coming and makes something different about it.


Organic Biopod in eXistenZ (1999)

In a scene of eXistenZ (1999) which they go to a Ski house, Allegra says “Nobody actually physically skis anymore”. The society in the film plays virtual reality games and almost lives in it. The man at the gas station says “I operate a gas station on my own most pathetic reality. Allegra’s work liberated me.” In that world, people see the real life as a procedure to do, but their actual life is in the gamepod which they can be anything they want. Brundelfly in The Fly also mentions something very similar, he claims he is purified and he has been released after teleportation. So characters (people) in his films are enthusiastic about the future of technology, and new things these technologies would bring to them.

In eXistenZ, Technology and human flesh combine just like Cronenberg wants. There are organic guns made from bones and human teeth which reminds Renn’s gun-hand in Videodrome. The gamepod itself is a cybernetic organism (cyborg) which takes required energy from human. Also there are mutated amphibians on streets and forests although film does not explain the reason behind their being.


Cathode Ray Mission

Cathode Ray Mission in Videodrome (1984)

In Videodrome, Bianca O’Blivions’s office is used like a help center for homeless and sick people. This help center is called “Cathode Ray Mission” which provides homeless people free tv broadcast which spreads cathode rays. This is important and interesting, they don’t provide food or job, just chance to watch and be exposed to more and more television. Television is shown as a very important human need. Just like the gamepod in eXistenZ because they are both popular and thought as a need in their era. Browning suggests a different theory about Cathode Ray Mission: “The Cathode Ray Mission, a blend of prison, madhouse and hospital, could be seen to function as a kind of Panopticon” (2007, p.64). People can be seen from Bianca’s office and they are under control, and the place is like a labyrinth. Although it is not very clear, we could assume that Cronenberg sees the future societies in an open prison which will be controlled by televisions and people will demand for it. Spectacular Optical wants to widen the Videodrome broadcast to control the world, this is not much different than today’s tv entertainment and advertisement industry which wants to shape society’s needs.

Next: Questioning Reality

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