Sundance 2023: Infinity Pool, by David Bax
Old, Sundown, Triangle of Sadness, The White Lotus (from what I’m told; I haven’t watched it)… A subsection of the recent trend of movies about how fucked up rich folks are comes in the form of letting us see people having an absolute terrible time while on luxury vacations. Well, perhaps the worst time of all is had by Em and James Foster (Cleopatra Coleman and Alexander Skarsgård) in Brandon Cronenberg‘s Infinity Pool. Or are they actually having the best time, the sick puppies? Rich people, man.
If you’re one of those sick puppies yourself (no judgment from this sick puppy), you’ll probably agree that, just as with Cronenberg’s previous film, Possessor, Infinity Pool is often hilarious. Brutal, assaultive, mind-frying, viscerally upsetting? Yes. But also hilarious. A lot of that is down to the Mia Goth‘s alternately coquettish and menacing performance. Goth has made a well-deserved name for herself in recent years with films like Suspiria, High Life and X but (keeping in mind that I haven’t seen Pearl yet), this is her at her best yet. She makes an absolute meal of her role, one of the first at the resort to befriend the Fosters.
Even when Infinity Pool is funny, though, there’s no denying the creeping dread. That’s largely thanks to the score from Canadian electronic composer Tim Hecker. The semi-industrial tones are a constant source of unsettlement, poisoning every gorgeous view and five star dinner.
When the trouble that’s boiling under finally comes to the surface, it’s in the form of a dead local in the fictional, underdeveloped country on the sea. When James is deemed responsible, he must either be punished or pony up the money to have a duplicate made of himself that will face the consequences for him. So, just as with Possessor, Infinity Pool becomes a science fiction horror story in which Cronenberg can pursue his pet obsessions with the difference between consciousness and corporeality–and the mutability of each–in determining identity.
Thus, the true horror plays out not in what the characters do or what is done to them (though those things are plenty scary) but in the existential implications of what it all does to them. Cronenberg realizes this terror but imposing on us the same sensory confusion the people in the story must be feeling. Infinity Pool is intense, nightmarish, overwhelming and, most troubling of all, pretty sexy.