Monday, 4 October 2010

Film Review: The Fly 1986, Directed by David Cronenburg

The second film in our Shapeshifters flick list is the 1986 remake of 'The Fly' dirrected by David Cronenburg. When compared to its older brother the only thing that ties the two films together is that they both have teleporters and they both have flies. The thirty year differents marks the change in American society, the original ends with a rose-tinted credit roll highlighting the importance of the family unit in the 1950's while in the 1980's Fly the abundance of bodily fluid and sexuality explores a subtext of sexually transmitted disease particulary AIDs and HIV which was a poorly understood yet deadly new disease. Cronenburg's use of 'bodyshock' horror further pushes the idea of disease.

Seth Brundle:

I think the film is good, the level of acting shown by Jeff Goldblum is amazing, it is hard to look at the 'BrundleFly' and think that there's still a guy under that mound of makeup acting, I guess I've been spoiled with all the lastest CG films! Whist looking at other reviews this quote by from a review by Richard Luck for Film4 stood out " don't need to put The Fly under the microscope to see that it's HIV free, close inspection reveals that this highly intelligent film is as much a movie about the head and the heart as it is a warning of the perils of the "new flesh"" I agree with this review in so far as the head and the heart is concerned with love and relationships. Seth Brundle during the later part of the film seems totally divorced from his heart, going about things using only a methodical scientific mind which has somewhat skewed his take on love e.g. his idea to fuse himself, Veronica and his unborn child together to form a complete family "We'll be the ultimate family. A family of three joined together in one body."


One thing that should be mentioned is the monster design and portrayal, the development from 'Seth Brundle, scientist' to pupal Brundlefly to full blown humanoid fly is remarkable even compared to modern day effects. James Berardinelli from somewhat agrees "It should be noted that the final Brundlefly (either an animatronic creation or a puppet) is creepy and effective. It's the steps in between nearly-human and fully insect where the costumes and makeup lose an aspect of their credibility." I think that on the whole the costumes look relatively realistic and credible for the most part, there are only a handful of shots where the lighting or action make the the costume less believable. This I beleive is due to the fact that it is all anatomically believeable, it is very easy to make something like The Fly in a lighthearted comic way yet the attention to detail show on the the costumes and make-up is astounding in a slimy way.

The BrundleFly:

The thing that I think really captures the viewer and disturbs them is the viseral imagery, one particular the scene where Brundle pulls off his fingernails which for some reason is a timeless way to make an audience squirm. There is something deeply revolting about the human body when it's undergoing changes that involve copius amounts of bodily fluids that strikes a kind of primal disgust or fear that also seems to relate to sex and as I've mentioned briefly already, with AIDs as a social narrative. Such an aweful sometimes painful transformation from human to humanoid fly begging for mercyful death from non-other than their lover seems to me to be a stern, sci-fi look at the lifecycle of someone infected with AIDs. When Seth first goes through the telepod he is fused with the fly which I think is symbolic of sexual awakening, he is at his peak. His sexual appetite grows, as do the fly hairs on his back, Veronica refuses to undergo teleportation or in essence let go of her moral restraint  a good quote from Seth is "I'll bet you think that you woke me up about the flesh, don't you? But you only know society's straight line about the flesh." this is said just before his attempts to find a willing 'teleportee' in the shape of Tawny who Seth picks up, literally. It is only after his one nighter with Tawny that Seth's transformation really kicks in, starting with his face which takes on the appearance of severe acne. I think it would appear that this would be the real point of infection, possibly from Tawny in the context of HIV and why Veronica is healthy throughout the film. The rest of the film follows Seth's slow decay into death as Veronica watches on helplessly until the final scene where she kills him in mercy, not unlike someone who has suffered from a terminal disease for some time. I think Joe Sommerlad in his review for draws a more broad interpretation, using terminal diseases as a whole  "Released at the height of the AIDs epidemic, The Fly starts like a superhero movie but turns out to be a surprisingly touching discussion of the impotence and heartbreak of watching a loved one die slowly from a terminal wasting disease.".

To conclude, the film is amazing with some top notch acting, creature and set design. The story has many layers of symbolism and social commentary. All in all a brilliant piece of cinema history.

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