Rag Rewind #3 Dead Ringers: David Cronenberg

24 Sep

Ok you got me, it has been a heck of a lot longer than a week since the last Rewind; life happens, what can I say. I have saved a particularly special cinematic gem for this post, so hopefully all will be forgiven. It would be fair to say that I am generally ambivalent towards the films of David Cronenberg. Granted, they are inarguably intelligent, thought-provoking and well executed, but for the most part they are not enjoyable in the traditional sense, making them a difficult watch. Not so Dead Ringers (1988).

All the hallmarks of Cronenbergs’ style are there; it is visceral, challenging, often ugly and deeply disturbing, but where many of his other films failed to draw me into their unique story world, Dead Ringers was a resounding success.

The film loosely follows the disturbing true story of  identical twin gynaecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus’ descent from respected physicians to drug abuse and eventual double overdose. Jeremy Irons puts in a breathtaking performance as fictitious twins Ellie and Beverly Mantle, as their intense psychological bond is torn apart by the entrance of love interest Claire Niveau, and Beverly’s chronic drug abuse.

Irons excelled in the roles, creating a mood of palpable tension and tenderness between the intimately bound brothers with a style and grace that is unsurpassed. I truly believe that in cinema the only thing better than one Jeremy Irons is two Jeremy Irons’, and it would be difficult to imagine any other actor carrying off a film like Dead Ringers with such aplomb.

While I could go on about this film for hours, I will simply say that the scene in which Ellie and Beverly seamlessly pass a woman between them while slow dancing to The Five Satins’ In the Still of the Night remains one of my favourite cinematic moments of all time. A perfect marriage of cinema and music, the scene artfully captures the burning intensity of the bond between the brothers which is as beautiful as it perturbing. Finally, the closing shot; an elegantly rendered la Pieta,  is at once gorgeous heartbreaking, a ponderous composition of conflicting emotions. Such oppositions create the tension which holds Dead Ringers together and make it a truly unmissable film.

Ed.

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