Film Reviews

INFINITY POOL Has Little New To Say and That’s Okay


Class commentary in film has had a big moment in the past year (derogatory). With TRIANGLE OF SADNESS, THE MENU, and GLASS ONION all taking aim at the elite to varying degrees of smugness (TRIANGLE being the standout if it wasn’t for Östlund’s chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome), it was easy to burn out on the thematic thread. Couple that with the fact that we have a defining thriller on the subject in 2019’s PARASITE and the whole affair seems ill-advised.

So I’m not mad, per se, that people saw Brandon Cronenberg’s INFINITY POOL, with its hedonism and ostentatious wealth and curious relation to criminal justice, and canonized it in this way. Certainly, there are elements of “eat the rich” storytelling at play here, with the film taking place at a luxury resort in the midst of Li Tolqa, some bizarrely savage part of eastern Europe. Alexander Skårsgard’s James is a freeloading novelist leeching both professionally and financially from his wife Em’s (Cleopatra Coleman) familial connections. And in the interest of remaining vague, we quickly learn just how much access money gives you in Li Tolqa, with that power being the chief driver of the plot.

The first act of INFINITY POOL, in this way, sets us up for another class satire, in which the wealthy abuse their power, become instrumental to their own undoing, and so on — which is perhaps why so many audiences left the theater ready to think of it in this way. But to do so is to set both the film and yourself up for utter failure. Movies are fun, I remind you. INFINITY POOL, despite the immediate bait of yet another class thriller, is ultimately vapid, with little to nothing substantive to say.

This is precisely why the film rips.

Infinity Pool still

I’ve seen the film twice now (once at Sundance, with the NC-17 cut, Skårsgard cock intact) and much of my first viewing was spent clinging to that satirical throughline I expected from the first 40 minutes. I found myself frustrated with the film’s general incoherence and disregard for momentum and even logic. Its nightmarish odyssey felt maddeningly pointless, hedonistic but to no end, and so around the third act I just gave up—at which point I realized there was nothing to look for in the first place.

In the past decade or so, we’ve become accustomed to so-called elevated horror, in which, for some reason, horror films have to be “about” “things.” Cronenberg himself has been guilty of this, with his 2020 POSSESSOR exploring themes of violent media and technological reliance. It doesn’t feel far-fetched that INFINITY POOL would exist in the same mode, especially given the remarkably grounded setups early in the film. But to perceive INFINITY POOL in this way completely neglects the far more pressing (and more interesting) ethos of unhinged libertinism.

More than anything, INFINITY POOL is a piece centered on perverse glee. Cronenberg, recalling his father’s best work, relishes in the obscene not as a means to any sort of end, but simply for its own sake. This is a film that, despite its initial pretenses, recalls CLIMAX or SPRING BREAKERS far more than TRIANGLE OF SADNESS. Or, in a particularly weird, riotous sense—INFINITY POOL is often extremely funny, you can laugh, I promise—the work of John Waters. Even in the Sundance Q&A, a notorious breeding ground for pseudo-intellectualizing, none of the film’s purported thematic content came up. Instead, both from Cronenberg himself and his cast, the fucked-up joy of filming something as deeply depraved as this was the main topic of conversation.   Infinity Pool still

The expected sort of mode for something like this would be to follow Östlund’s approach: shock value and perverseness as a means to achieve your broader story/commentary goals. What Cronenberg does here is far more interesting, inverting that expected structure: his characters are ostentatiously wealthy, but their wealth is primarily a catalyst for him to put some weird shit on screen. It’s a disarmingly nihilistic work, in which the point is simply that there is none. Everything we see onscreen is present, more or less, because of its innate cool factor. Mia Goth gives the singularly unhinged performance she does not in the service of any character motivation or allegorical truth but rather for the simple joy of doing so! More drugged-out hallucinatory sequences than you can count? Sure! It’s the movies, dammit!

If you think along lines of traditional story coherence, thematic weight, and so on, INFINITY POOL is sure to leave you perplexed, frustrated, and underwhelmed. And for good reason—there is, to be clear, little to nothing of the sort. But that’s not what Cronenberg was interested in whatsoever; if you just surrender and let yourself ride his wave?

Oh baby. Strap in. 

Taylor Lomax
Taylor Lomax is an LA-based pop culture obsessive. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and a native Southerner and also has a Cajun cousin named Sprite.

    2022 In Gaming: Finding Time to Chill Out with FRANKEN

    Previous article

    Bandcamp Picks of the Week 2/9/2023

    Next article


    Comments are closed.

    Free ebooks Library zlib project