I don't recommend going to see Spider
for your birthday but my two friends would miss the last bus home if we went to Gangs of New York
with its epic length. So, Spider
is based on a novel by Patrick McGrath, and Cronenberg was enraptured by it. I settled in, at least in the beginning, to exquisite cinematography the kind that reeks of art house quality with a narrative speed that tried my patience. Interesting work I thought prematurely. Now Ralph Fiennes is not my favorite but I liked his character immediately. He was after all wearing a wrinkled brown raincoat and four shirts. In addition, he smoked hand rolled cigarettes down to the butt. The tobacco stains on his fingers was a nice touch, as well as his thin oily hair. A perfectly demented soul, who mumbled incessantly and cryptically wrote in a little note pad with the short stub of a soft number 2 pencil.
He checks into a half way house in the London East End, greeted by the cold and efficient Mrs. Wilkenson the housewarden played by the fabulous Lynn Redgrave. I loved his Spartan cot and Zen like room devoid of anything but anguish and he soon began spinning a web of mystery, eventually decorating his room with string.
Our man is an outpatient from a psych ward tracing his family of origin issues in flashback and who enters his past like a ghost. He had a conventional drunken father who was a womanizer Gabriel Bryne and a mother that he thought was a saint Miranda Richardson. With McGrath's literary work as foundation Cronenberg under his own recognizance enters the world of recycled and predictable psychobabble plots without regret. In these, boys think their mothers are saints until they find out they sleep with their fathers. Rare are those who freak when their fathers sleep with their mothers. We can thank Freud for that. According to the boy Spider's father wants it all, and kills his mother to be with a bargirl. Enter stage lefts as in Dead Ringers
, Cronenberg's fascination with Freud's theory of sex and the death urge.
Pay attention to Miranda Richardson. She digs into her roll like a rare T-bone steak. However, the Oedipus complex of the film detracts from the raincoat, from the string on the ceiling, the stained fingers, and the cryptic notebook. This is one more boy who is in trouble because his view of women is all mixed up. That boy becomes a man and he goes crazy. I feel sorry for him in a way but because his distortions are so trite and have been overdone to the point of nausea I have to say that Cronenberg's Spider
for all its virtues is a real potboiler that starts off well and ends up in the pathological wasteland of Freud's tale tales.
For Movie Magazine International, this is Moira Sullivan
© 2003 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 3/03
Spider (Please Not Another Tall Tale by Freud)
France, Canada, UK