Infinity Pool (2023)
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Writer: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Jalil Lespert
Fresh off the plane from their Sundance debut, Brandon Cronenberg leads Alexander Skarsgård by a leather collar roped around his neck. Mia Goth is there, also leather-clad, in a black dress. The three are smiling but a little bedraggled from the cross-country journey – it’s fitting for the distressing odyssey the trio are to take us on. The discussion ranges from the use of a “goo” in the film to the logistics of filming an orgy scene (which Cronenberg assures us is much more mechanical than it looks on screen). As we walk through the double doors of the AMC, we are greeted by masked men in neat, red suits. On each of the seats, a cut-out of Mia Goth doing her signature I’m A Woman Pushed Beyond Her Breaking Point Face grimaces up at us. They are taped to a small wooden stick to wave in the air like an infinitely more demented showing of Rocky Horror. Infinity Pool is this kind of experience.
The latest film from Possessor director Brandon Cronenberg asks the same question that has dominated the big screen for years now: what happens when the ultra-wealthy realize they live a consequence-free life? In this rendition, James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) travel to the fictional country of La Tolqa. After meeting two reckless regulars, Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert), they take a trip that ends in a fatal car accident. James soon discovers that the island’s “brutal” culture includes a tradition of execution or, for fortunate visitors, a body-doubling process where the double is executed in the offender’s place. Naturally, James is inducted into a sinister underground society of extreme violence and hedonism.
Though the film’s premise isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, it still functions as a triumph on the visual and experimental storytelling front. Cronenberg doesn’t shy away from some necessary grotesqueness and, at times, the film veers into pure humiliation fodder. The seven-minute, drug-infused orgy scene alone makes this film worth at least one watch. Where many recent satires of upper-class debauchery rely on familiar tropes and old jokes (see The Menu), Infinity Pool has the decency to provide us with a foray into a world of sex-crazed mania.
Of course, Infinity Pool is further bolstered by the predictably strong performances of Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth.
Less than a year ago, Skarsgård graced the screen as the chiselled Viking warrior Amleth, a character fuelled by vengeance and a taste for blood, in Robert Eggers’ The Northman. Memorably, Amleth flexes his Godlike strength as he duels his father’s killer by the side of an active volcano (spewing lava and all). As James Foster, Skarsgård is a pitiful man beaten to his hands and knees by the privileged life that has failed to meet his expectations. Characterized by a weak attempt at novel writing, James is living off his girlfriend’s dime and idling at the resort. Even the rush of gratuitous violence can only momentarily shake James from his apathetic slumber for an instant until he’s back on the hunt. Skarsgård perfectly portrays the emaciated spiral of a man with no goals and no ambition to kickstart his own life.
Perhaps on the other end of the spectrum is Mia Goth. In an era of deranged final girls, Mia Goth rules them all. From a desperate actress in Pearl to the sacrilegious bonafide star in X and on to her newest rendition of bored (to the point of insanity) housewife, Goth has pretty/scary on lock. Her saccharine seduction of James in the first few minutes of the film is instantly disquieting, and anytime she appears on screen we are immediately on edge. She has a sinister, quiet rage that builds throughout the film, and it’s largely thanks to Goth’s performance that Infinity Pool feels so new.
Though the film exudes a chaotic freshness in acting and visuals, the world building leaves something to be desired. We’re told in the first few minutes that La Tolqa is a brutal country with demented traditions and an outdated view of justice. We even get a shot of the mutilated masks that are essential to the marketing of the film. But the lore stops there. Aside from the central technology of body doubling, La Tolqan culture is left largely to our imaginations. Sadly, we never come to know the origins of the freaky masks or how locals live their lives outside of a few establishing shots.
Infinity Pool is the kind of film you should see exactly once. With its technical strengths and a couple of jaw-dropping sequences, it makes for an evening of debaucherous fun. The film won’t go down in history as one of the best of all time, but it will promise to surprise, disturb, and at times amuse you.