Infinity Pool Is a Shallow Look at Hedonism

Photo: courtesy Neon.

With the name Cronenberg comes an expectation of body horror. While David Cronenberg might be considered the godfather of the genre, it’s his son Brandon who continues the legacy with his latest feature, Infinity Pool. James (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), are at an all-inclusive resort on the island of Latoka. Everything the hotel guests could possibly want is on the grounds, which are surrounded by a heavily guarded chain link fence with barbed wire atop it. Beyond the hotel is a violent, heavily corrupt country where anyone can be above the law, as long as they have enough money.

At the resort, James and Em meet another vacationing couple, Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert). They’re longtime visitors to the area and encourage James and Em to venture beyond the walls of the hotel for a beachside picnic. On the way back, James hits a man wandering on the road, killing him instantly. The Latokan government tells him he has two options: be executed for his crime or pay an exorbitant amount of money to be genetically duplicated and have this “double” be executed instead. Upon learning about this legal loophole, James falls into a world of debauchery, hedonism, and excess.

Gabi and James on the beach
Photo: courtesy Neon.

Brandon Cronenberg’s previous film, Possessor (starring the name on everyone’s lips, Andrea Riseborough), plays with a similar theme of body autonomy. Instead of doubles, Possessor, as the name implies, sees Riseborough inhabiting the bodies of unsuspecting people to carry out assassinations. Both Possessor and Infinity Pool play with the concept of what makes up a body. Is it the memories, the consciousness, or the physical flesh that creates a body? Who gets to control that body? Does the essence of an individual diminish the number of times the body and the mind are duplicated?

To say that Infinity Pool is intrigued by the human body would be an understatement. There are extreme close-ups, mostly of James’ face. His lips are thirty feet tall on the screen, the dimples in each lip, the rosiness. It’s aggressively intimate. The audience doesn’t feel like James is fully consenting to this invasion of his space. Infinity Pool is an exercise in bodily obsession. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a bodily fluid that doesn’t make an appearance at least once in the film’s runtime. Despite the sheer excess of bodily fluids, Infinity Pool does not reach the same heights of the genre the elder Cronenberg created. It’s by no means a fun watch for those who are squeamish, but it didn’t cause any walkouts like Julia Ducournau’s body-horror love story Titane.

James' face emerging from the cloning process
Photo: courtesy Neon.

At its gory, debaucherous heart, Infinity Pool asks the audience how far they’ll go to experience pleasure. James, Gabi, Alban, and their fellow rich travelers who have experienced the doubling process (Amanda Brugel, Caroline Boulton, John Ralston, and Jeffrey Ricketts) find something tantalizing and electrifying about the freedom they have. In a sense, they can live above the law in this coastal town. As long as they have large bank accounts, they can murder, steal, riot, and generally wreak havoc without having any punishment fall upon their heads. Instead, they watch their doubles be executed with the sort of glee the Romans felt watching gladiator matches.

James in a mask
Photo: courtesy Neon.

Infinity Pool is an unnerving spectacle that weaves a fascinating web for the first hour and a half, but the film ends without much fanfare or closure to the main themes. Cronenberg’s script plays with the toxicity of the male ego, wealthy people acting above the law, and how tourism affects local industries. Neither of those themes feel fully baked into the script which leaves a confusing taste in the mouths of the audiences. What exactly are we doing here? Is it just to show the depths of how horrific humanity can be? We all certainly must be aware of that by now. The film’s most interesting angle is the one that it’s least interested in exploring: tourism’s effect on a small, poor, and corrupt country. Rich people come to use Latoka as their own personal playground with a background of people who are living in falling apart structures. This is not science fiction, it’s the reality for a of “must-visit” locales. Instead of a well-plotted exploration of how pleasure for the wealthy is built on the pain of those not as well off, Infinity Pool is actually quite shallow. It’s all hazy, strobing neon montages that create an immaculate atmosphere, but never materialize into a concrete script.

For some, the atmospheric pleasures and mesmerizingly brutal sequences that make up Infinity Pool will be enough. For others, it’s the performances by Goth and Skarsgård that keep the wheels on the car for as long as they do. To say Goth is a force of nature is to rob her of her otherwordly oddity which is what makes Goth so compellingly watchable. The set up, characters, and ideas are all there—Infinity Pool just could not find a way to blend them all together.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

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