Back to IndieWire

Brandon Cronenberg on ‘Infinity Pool’: The Director Explains His Savage Satire of Tourism and Technology

The filmmaker doesn't hesitate to break down the metaphors of his wild midnight movie and connections it has with his father's own work.

PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 25: Director Brandon Cronenberg of 'Possessor' attends the IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village on location at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival – Day 2 on January 25, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

Brandon Cronenberg at Sundance

Getty Images for IMDb

About 20 years ago, Brandon Cronenberg went on a vacation to the Dominican Republic. “It was an entirely absurd and sinister experience,” he said in a recent interview with IndieWire at the Sundance Film Festival. “They would bus you in in the middle of the night and you wouldn’t see anything. They’d drop you into the resort, which was surrounded by barbed wire fence that was loosely disguised by dried palm leaves.” He shopped at a fake town inside the walls and dined at a Chinese restaurant. He rode back to the airport during the day. “I saw that the surrounding area was entirely poverty-stricken,” he said. “It was a horrible contrast.”

That experience provided the foundation for “Infinity Pool,” the writer-director’s third and most ambitious undertaking to date, a class satire on par with “White Lotus” and “Triangle of Sadness” that offers its own tantalizing body-horror twists. Like his father David, Brandon develops an eerie thriller out of complex themes that demand a deeper look.

“Infinity Pool” stars Alexander Skarsgård stars as an under-appreciated writer who abandons his wife for a peculiar life of crime alongside an anarchic outlaw (Mia Goth) and her merry band of criminal tourists, but it’s much more than that. In this fictional Eastern European country, outsiders who commit crimes are cloned and forced to watch their doppelgängers get executed, which Skarsgård’s character likes so much that it turns into his kink. The movie abounds with freaky sex and bizarre body-double antics to weird and wild to spoil here, but it’s just as fun to explore what it all means.

“The setting is used in no small part to talk about the ways human psychology can mutate and animalistic violence can resurface in the context of not having responsibilities,” Cronenberg said. “This contained, almost Disneyland mirror of reality that’s contained in the bubble of a resort setting is very weird and grotesque to me. It’s really like you’re not visiting a country. You’re visiting an alternate dimension across the country or a tourist nation across the world.”

Infinity Pool

“Infinity Pool”


As for the clones, there’s an undeniable indictment of modern-day narcissism baked into the conceit that Cronenberg won’t deny. “That element of constant self-observation is something I was thinking about,” Cronenberg said. “That’s a big part of our society now.”

He added that he was less fearful of technology than the way people choose to use it. “I don’t think the technology is inherently good or bad,” he said. “It’s always used in both ways. To me, the scariest part about social media is the degree to which people can be influenced and open themselves up emotionally and psychologically to be hackable — and how that intersects with issues like free speech and democracy.”

However audiences choose to interpret it, “Infinity Pool” certainly brings the subversive goods, from a close-up hand job in the unrated cut to Skarsgård on all fours barking like a dog and a whole lot more. The midnight movie shocked and amused Sundance crowds ahead of its release by Neon this week, and Cronenberg was thrilled to hear audiences laugh at many of the more absurd twists. “It was intentionally hilarious,” he said. “I was happy we got laughs during the premiere. If we hadn’t gotten laughs, I’d be nervous. That’s just my preferred approach to humor. I can never laugh too hard if the film is winking to me. Straight acting to me in an absurd situations is to my tastes.”

Like father, like son: Ever since his first feature “Antiviral,” which follows people who are willingly infected with celebrity diseases, the younger Cronenberg’s work has been seen as an extension of his father’s cinema. Last May, when his thematically similar “Crimes of the Future” premiered at Cannes, David Cronenberg told IndieWire that his son avoided publicly discussing the comparison “for obvious reasons,” but added that “we love each other and talk all the time.”

Production for the two new Cronenberg movies coincided in 2020, but Brandon held back on submitting “Infinity Pool” to Cannes to make room for his father’s latest film. “It was really quite sweet,” David said. “To be shooting at the same time is delicious for a father. I was really very proud.”

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Filmmakers Brandon Cronenberg and David Cronenberg walk the carpet for "Antiviral" during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2012 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Brandon and David Cronenberg at Cannes

Getty Images

These days, Brandon said, he has made peace with working in his father’s shadow. “I mean, we are related and he did obviously have a lot to do with raising me, so it might be natural that there’s some sort of overlap there,” he said. “But to deliberately do something — like romantic comedies — that would be not related to his career would still be defining my career in terms of his even if it were in opposition. I really just am trying to continue to pursue whatever my own artistic interests are in the moment and leave it to other people to decide to what degree there’s overlap there or if it’s interesting — or not.”

Notably, U.S. distributor Neon came onboard both “Crimes of the Future” and “Infinity Pool” early on. It’s the second time the company has released one of Brandon’s films, following his 2019 mind-hacking thriller “Possessor,” and it may not be the last time. “In an era of spare, slow, ‘elevated’ horror, Brandon offers a sexier, more satirical alternative,” Neon president of acquisitions and production Jeff Deutchman said. “He takes his influences from sci-fi literature and exploitation cinema and updates them into distinctly millennial concoctions of gothic humor and imagination.”

The company allowed Cronenberg to screen “Infinity Pool” in its unrated form at Sundance, with the aforementioned hand job intact. However, in order to evade the NC-17 rating for the theatrical release, that scene and a few other small details have been snipped from the R-rated version. “The NC-17 issue is very particular to the U.S.,” Cronenberg said. “My approach is just to make the movie I want to make and understand that for the U.S. theatrical I might have to make some tweaks. I ended up being pretty practical about it.”

Still, he grinned about the low-budget effects he employed for the prosthetic penis. “It’s just a very well-made silicone cock,” he said. “Like so many makeup effects, it’s very simple — just a tube and a pump.”

Infinity Pool

“Infinity Pool”


Cronenberg said he approached the ability to unsettle his audiences with a sense of responsibility. “I feel like just shock for the sake of shock has limited value,” he said. “In my films, you’re looking at bland people in a bland context who then, because of freedom from responsibility, start to have this animalistic violence and carnality resurface. That contrast is really important to viscerally communicate what they’re experiencing.”

Cronenberg is currently developing several new projects, including a miniseries adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel “Supercan,” another satire of wealthy society, and “Dragon,” a futuristic space thriller with a biochemical twist.

Both sound like they could have timely hooks, but Cronenberg said he wasn’t trying to rush them out because of that. “It’s tempting to say that things like this are coming out now because of the alarming economic divide and people’s anxieties and frustrations with that,” he said. “But actually making a film takes such a long time and the industry moves at such a glacial pace that you can’t really plan it out.”

“Infinity Pool” is now in limited theatrical release.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox