Sunday, June 17, 2012

Underrated Showcase Sunday: Spider


I never realised how great Google was for picking out underrated films. As I went to search up Spider, a 2002 film directed by David Cronenberg and starring Ralph Fiennes, I had to sift through a pile of unrelated stuff before I finally found what I was looking for. Sure, it doesn't help that the much more popular and mainstream Spider-Man was released in 2002 as well. The two films are not to be confused with each other: one is a blockbuster about a guy seeking an outlet through spandex and webs. The other one is a strange independent feature about a man who doesn't know where his brain begins and ends. And no amount of spandex or webs coming out of his hands is ever going to help that.

Ralph Fiennes plays the titular character (also known as Dennis Cleg), who is given a room in a halfway house especially for mentally disturbed people. Here he starts to piece together his memories of his past, which lead to an apparently fateful event which changed his mental stability, and his childhood, forever. Now this kind of story is the benchmark for those Oscar driven films that have people going crazy so at the end of the day, they can get a little golden statue. However, there's something so edgy, yet extremely unsettling about Spider. It doesn't take the outsider's point of view. Cronenberg drives you straight into the mind of Spider. His mind isn't carefully placed out. It is lost, messed up, confused. Spider has a knack for blending fantasy and reality into his possible experiences and memories. This makes for a curious, yet slightly frustrating piece of film that needs a clear head to be able to fully articulate. Looking back on it now, though, it is definitely like anything I've really seen of it's sort. It gives an extremely frightening portrait of a man driven mad by his brain. A lot of that madness comes from the people around him - but I was left with the feeling that his brain was doing the majority of the work.


The film features one of my favourite performances from Ralph Fiennes to date. Most actors I've seen tend to over-do the schizophrenia because they obviously don't have a clear understanding of the illness, but Fiennes hits the nail on the head. His performance is unlike the villainous prowess of Amon Goth or Voldemort, the heroic Lenny Nero, or the shy romantic Count Laszlo de Almasy. It is completely different to anything that Fiennes has done in his career - or any other actor has done, for that matter. What he succeeds with the most is his level of restraint, which definitely makes his role work just as I'm sure Cronenberg intended for it to work. Also brilliant is Miranda Richardson, who is given the task of playing not only Spider's mother, but his eventual step mother, too. She is wickedly good in both roles.

Despite the masterful work of Cronenberg, Fiennes and Richardson, this is a really frustrating experience - both in the way it is presented and the way it is paced. I have to admit to being bored out of my tree at some points, which led my brain to switch off, which probably led to me missing some little details. It is a hard film to like, and it definitely isn't for everyone. However, it deserves a heck of a lot more recognition than it gets.

What I got:

14 comments:

  1. I loved this movie. Loved, loved, loved it. It might be my favourite Cronenberg film, and THAT'S saying something since I've loved all the Cronenberg films I've seen. I'm so glad you featured this film as underrated, because that's exactly what it is. This movie really fascinated and enthrallled me.

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    1. Wow, your favourite Cronenberg? I haven't seen any other Cronenberg films, but I barely ever hear anyone say that. It is really something, isn't it?

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  2. I saw the word 'Cronenberg' and 'Spider' and thought, "Oh my goodness, is this going to be like The Fly?" Okay, so I jumped to some conclusions, but this still sounds really intriguing, and if you and Tyler liked it then it must be worth at least a look!

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    1. Haha, I haven't seen The Fly, but it probably isn't anything like that one. It is definitely worth a look!

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  3. I do love this movie as well. In fact, I think it's one of the most underrated films of the past 10 years. I just love how the tricky the narrative chooses to play out as well as the fact it's about a man's troubled mind. Great performances and Cronenberg showing something that is very different.

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    1. It is one of the most underrated films from the past ten years. I can't believe how few people have seen it!

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  4. Great addition to the series! Fantastic movie and great work from Fiennes and Natasha Richardson.

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    1. Miranda* But yes, glad you liked it as well!

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  5. YES! Thank you for spreading a little Spider love. I think this is one, if not the, most overlooked film of both Cronenberg and Fiennes' careers. I agree that it is frustrating as all hell, and the first time I watched it, I actually turned it off too. I was glad I went back and finished it later. Overlooked indeed.

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    1. You're most welcome - I can't believe that I didn't post a review on it back when I first saw it at the start of the year. I'll definitely check it out again, because it probably won't frustrate me as much!

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  6. "The film features one of my favourite performances from Ralph Fiennes to date. Most actors I've seen tend to over-do the schizophrenia because they obviously don't have a clear understanding of the illness, but Fiennes hits the nail on the head." EXACTLY! I couldn't agree more. This is a terrific film which really highlights why Fiennes is one of the most gifted actors alive.

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    1. Fiennes really is one of the most gifted actors alive. I was so impressed with his performance here!

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  7. Stevee, this sounds a lot like Memento and A Beautiful Mind in terms of taking you in the characters head.

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    1. It definitely is. While I like Memento a lot more, this one is definitely more clever and trickier in the way it places you in the character's head.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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