Directed by David Cronenburg. Canada. 2002.
Based on a novel by Patrick McGrath, and enhanced by Howard Shore's evocative score, Spider has, in the director's words, "the feel of Samuel Beckett confronting Sigmund Freud." Nothing is what it seems. Cronenberg shows the adult Spider lurking in the background of the childhood scenes, re-experiencing his past like a living ghost who has come to observe the dead. This man can only confront his past from a perception distorted by illness, and we see the events only from his point of view. Through him, Cronenberg asks us to think about whether memory is "creative" (as in the plays of Harold Pinter), or an objective fact fixed in time.
Fiennes turns in an Oscar-caliber
performance of amazing strength, one that allows the viewer to get inside
his head and feel his pain intensely. Though he mumbles in a virtually
inaudible way throughout, Fiennes is never false or "over-the-top" as in
other recent portrayals of schizophrenics. Equally outstanding is Miranda
Richardson, who plays both Spider's mother and the floozy his dad brings
home from the pub. Cronenberg's vision is bleak and unsparing, using mood
and expression rather than dialogue to achieve its effect. This is not
a film about schizophrenia or how the mentally ill can rise above their
disability, but about the lonely journey of all men to discover the truth
about themselves. Spider is a brilliant tour-de-force and a gut-wrenching
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