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: