I suppose I should be open and upfront from the very beginning and say that I’ve yet to find a David Cronenberg movie that I dislike. The man is a unique talent and his intelligent and visceral movies provide a selection of some of the finest and strangest horror movies to be allowed to travel on the sideroad closest to the mainstream. Without, usually, actually being mainstream.
There’s the splattery greatness of Scanners, the weird and seductive new flesh of Videodrome, the emotional and FX blend in The Fly and the magnificence of A History Of Violence. In fact, I could name every one of his movies (I’ve missed a few so far but will get to them all one day) and not create a selection of desert island DVDs that would keep me happy for a long, long time. Which is why I want you to realise just how good Dead Ringers is when I say that I considered it Cronenberg’s best movie for a hell of a long time. Nowadays I certainly consider it |ONE of his best but that’s what I can say about all of the titles just mentioned above. Do see them all.
Beverly and Elliot Mantle (Jeremy Irons) are identical twin brothers and brilliant gynaecologists. Elliot is the dominant, more confident, one but the two often switch roles depending on the situation. They experience almost everything together in this way, even women. When Elliot lays the groundwork for Beverly to begin a relationship with a troubled actress (Genevieve Bujold – her character is unable to have children due to the fact that her uterus has three openings) little does he realise the wedge that he has handed him. A wedge that will lead to anger, deteriorating mental health and possibly much, much worse.
Based on the book “Twins” by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland, the script written by Cronenberg and Norman Snider is wonderful. There are snappy exchanges here that you could just sit back and enjoy without even looking at the screen.
But do look at the screen.
It’s in the visual department that Cronenberg strikes another big plus, as expected. Whether it’s in the sterile scenes of gynaecological surgery, an exhibit by an artist who works in metal or just the composition of scenes featuring Irons facing Irons, almost every shot is chosen perfectly.
There’s also a great score by Howard Shore and some infrequent, but impressive, special effects.
However, I’ve deliberately left the acting side of things until last because it deserves to be highlighted. Jeremy Irons in his dual role gives, arguably, the performance of his career. Twice. The twins are identical physically but their personalities come through in the performances from Irons, allowing you to differentiate between the two and view them as separate, astonishingly good, performances. Genevieve Bujold is fantastic in her role, a sad and vulnerable woman who can also dig deep to find inner strength and the ability to confront emotional fraud head on. There are other people onscreen but the focus is almost always on this three-pronged relationship.
Sterile and clinical for the most part, Dead Ringers also has moments of warmth and love in there, though the more genuine moments tend to be between the two twins, and a streak of humour so black that it’s almost hard to make out among the bleakness of a second half that builds to an ominous and seemingly inevitable finale.
DIRECTOR: DAVID CRONENBERG
STARS: JEREMY IRONS, GENEVIEVE BUJOLD, STEPHEN LACK
RUNTIME: 116 MINS APPROX