Alex Grant Reviews David Cronenbergs SPIDER
is a slight painterly oneiric film atypical of David Cronenbergs
Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Bradley Hall, Lynn Redgrave.
Director: David Cronenberg
David Cronenbergs remarkably astute filmisation of Patrick McGraths
highly original novel SPIDER is an extraordinary achievement in that both
the book and the film are equally powerful and idiosyncratic. McGrath
penned the script and his literary vision of madness; rooted in the unresolved
Freudian "Oedipal Complex"; is conveyed to the screen with unerring
sensitivity and single-minded pathos by a filmmaker more commonly celebrated
for the ruthless cruelty of his imagery and for the sheer moral ugliness
of his characters..
SPIDER is surprisingly delicate and free from gore, except for a single
scene of brutal murder. Ralph Fiennes as Spider Cleg gives
an admirably subtle portrayal of a pathetic creature suffering from schizophrenia.
Miranda Richardson - in three roles - acts with complete conviction and
is lent generous support by Gabriel Byrne in the thankless role of a boozing
lecher of a husband.
Or is every excruciating detail of the dysfunctional family-life
so chillingly caught in SPIDER actually a fabrication of young master
Clegs perverted preoccupation with his Mum? Spider from
a tender age is a fabulist born into a seedy no-hope working-class milieu
in Londons East End. A dreaner who can never overcome his unconscious
feelings for, and resentments of, his parents whose every action he appears
Committed as a teenager to Broadmoor, the notorious British prison for
the criminally-insane, a solitary mad-as-a-hatter Cleg is released as
an adult back into society where he actively re-lives, in every fetid
detail, the pathological world-view that he has created to make sense
of his past. Residing in a ghastly Dickensian half-way house,
where he has an utterly depressing and sordid bed-sitting room, and where
he is kept cruelly under the thumb of a callous penny-pinching landlady
Spider falls under the spell of his lurid fantasy-life reliving
each episode of his childhood obsessively, keeping a scrawled notebook
packed with hieroglyphics, revisiting the scenes of his upbringing on
his daily round/.
I should warn you that as Spider Cleg actor Fiennes mumbles
inaudibly with only the occasional words comprehensible. Despite this
handicap the actor is always believable as the kind of societal reject
and pariah, or leper, whom most of us encounter on the streets of every
major city every single day kicked out of mental hospitals in the
1980s such wretches are reduced to begging and to permanent homelessness.
SPIDER however is not a social tract, far more a piercingly humane and
tender slice of inner-city poetry, determined to make us enter the mind-set
of a maniac, a man whose experiences from birth are not so very far removed
from our own.
According to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis,
we all have to endure the Oedipus Complex and a few of us remain stranded
within this rivalry against Dad for the fair hand of Mum.
© Alex Grant March 2003
© Alex Grant October 5th 2002
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