Currently lauded for “A Danger0us Method” about the professional breakthrough years of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, the reputable David Cronenberg is without doubt one of the great filmmakers. Nevertheless he started out with making horror films about attacking bugs, zombie feastfests and the awesomeness of telekinetic powers. Yet even when he made the great gross-out “The Fly” (1986) it had this rich sexual paradigm that bespoke of the pleasurable highs of carnal degradation. Dead Ringers (1998) is really though his first out-and-out film about sexual dysfunction, a twisted film where Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists with depraved tastes.
It’s a cold, cerebral horror film – an unorthodox definition, I know. Irons is amazing in a dual role where the twins he plays act nearly alike, only one is more dominant than the other. How he subtly varies his nuances so you can tell Elliot and Bev apart is a high wire feat in acting. Genevieve Bujold plays TV actress Claire Niveau, a woman who is shared sexy-kinky by both brothers without knowing it, embarrassingly stumbling onto the truth.
With a sleek metallic design, the Mantle twins occupy a state-of-the-art gynecology facility that assists to enable infertile women to conceive. The glossy perfection of their work stations contrasts with their messy personal lives. Together, they are proud misogynists (They like the words “Mutant Woman”). Bev however would never get laid without his brother’s help, so Elliot routinely warms them up. Bev is then supposed to go “act” like his brother on a subsequent date.
Elliot and Bev have done this before, but never has Bev been so swept away by a woman before. The new woman Claire is a woman of taste, intelligence, and yes, kinkiness (observe the rubber hose bondage scene). She also introduces Bev to her drug habit which includes tranquilizers and speed. The habit destroys Bev’s work ethic, calling for Elliot to take over the majority of occupational duties. The absence of Claire plays an important significance: for once, Bev is too lonely to cope and yet out of first-time antipathy rejects his brother.
They say that twins share something second nature with each other, they share not only an empathy for each other’s well-being but instinct enmeshed moods. Elliot’s plan to help his brother is to temporarily get hooked on drugs as well, so they can share the recovery and withdrawals together. The symbiosis is too powerful, however, and one’s downwards spiral begets the brother’s. This lends to a conclusion of stark powerful dual destruction.
“Dead Ringers” is not a normal movie, but as a Cronenberg fan this was a dark pleasure to revisit. Its coldness is unprecedented, and cannot be sought for uplift or conventional excitement. I endlessly admired Irons, and as an exploit of tomfoolery, sometimes you don’t know if the woman in question is attended by Elliot or Bev. You can figure it out by your own inspection! But really, it’s squirmy and rather hideous. Watch it with cold fascination.
116 Minutes. Rated R.
TWISTED DRAMA / ADULT ORIENTATION / SATURDAY NIGHT GOOSEBUMPS
Film Cousins: “Sisters” (1973); “The Brood” (1979); “M. Butterfly” (1992); “Crash” (1996); “Twin Falls Idaho” (1999).