Much like Grant Morrison’s comics, Cronenberg’s films tend to be very hit-or-miss for me. Either I enjoy them immensely or they just don’t click with me in the slightest. I loved “The Dead Zone” and “The Fly” and “Naked Lunch” and “A History of Violence,” and many of his early psychological and science-fiction horror films, but some of his other recent projects, well… I just didn’t get them at all.
What’s more, I don’t think any of the films I disliked are actually bad. They’re just not for me. And “Cosmopolis” is one of those films.
I don’t think I’ll be doing an official “review” of it anywhere (though that might change), because I just can’t muster the mental resources required to think about it any more. To me, it felt like a pretentious movie that was too artsy for its own good, and I’m not sure whether that’s actually Cronenberg’s doing or the source material he’s working with (since it’s based on a novel I haven’t read). But I’m fairly certain that many of the movie “journalists” I know will love it for all the reasons I disliked it. And good for them.
What I did enjoy about the film, though, is the opportunity it gave me to sit down with Cronenberg and talk about his approach to making movies — specifically, his approach to adaptations, which are always on my mind.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview that I found particularly interesting:
IFC: You’ve done so many adaptations over the years, and many of them have differed significantly from their source material, but were great movies all the same. How do you balance the need to stay faithful to the source material against the need to make a good, original, interesting movie?
CRONENBERG: I learned very quickly when I did “The Dead Zone,” my first adaptation, that you have to betray the book in order to be faithful to the book. The reason for that is that the two media are really different. Literature and cinema, they are not the same. They are related, and they might seem to be closer together than they are, but when you’re really working in both of the fields, you can see they’re tremendously different. To take the most obvious example, even a bad novelist can do a convincing inner monologue where you’re in the person’s head and he’s walking down the street and thinking about his mistress and his bank account, and so on. You can’t do that in a movie. The usual failure is that you resort to a voiceover, where someone is reading the novel to you like a kid at bedtime. To me, that’s an admission of failure. You couldn’t find the cinematic translation or equivalent or whatever. You have to be brutal. When there’s something you know won’t work, you have to get rid of it or rethink it or reconfigure it. That’s what the key is: recognizing the differences of cinema and what its strengths are and weakeness are, and coming to grips with that.
You can read the rest of my interview with David Cronenberg at IFC.com, in which we get into more discussion of “Cosmopolis,” as well as some talk about the stalled “Eastern Promises” sequel, and his “Total Recall” movie that was never made.