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Cannes 2024: David Cronenberg immerses Vincent Cassel in the madness of mourning for Les Shrouds

David Cronenberg’s Requiem

David Cronenberg’s new film The Shrouds, presented in competition at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, seems to have disturbed more than convinced. Which does not constitute an originality in the Canadian director’s filmography, including in particular the body horror and the constant darkness have classified him among the great authors of contemporary “shock” cinema. But at 81, a widower since the death of his wife Carolyn Zeifman in 2017, David Cronenberg offers a new story with a quieter, more monotonous and seemingly more peaceful note than his previous features.

The Shrouds tells of a death that never ends. So the real drama of the film is not what takes place there, but what happened Before : the death of Becca, the love of Karsh’s life, who died of cancer. This one, played by a remarkable Vincent Cassel, is a former “industrial video producer”, converted into a successful undertaker high tech. He has in fact developed the technology of the connected shroud, which allows you to visualize the decomposition of corpses in 3D and in real time. In this way, Karsh can see his wife’s decaying body at will, have her again, make him his own until she returns entirely to dust.

But when his Montreal cemetery is vandalized – he has several around the world – a chain of mysterious events is set in motion great paranoia is spreading. Who would harm Becca’s decaying body? Who’s mad at him? Why does Karsh notice that strange tumors are seen on the skeletons of vandalized graves that do not appear organic but artificial?

The terrible disease of mourning

Like Paul Schrader with Oh, Canadaas to a different extent Francis Ford Coppola with Megalopolis, the octogenarian David Cronenberg offers a mirror film for this Cannes Film Festival. With his very personal subject, of course, but also with Vincent Cassel, in a surprising way resemblance to the directorwhite hair and slim figure dressed in black. THE Shrouds is different, especially because it is this actor, seen twice previously with Cronenberg, who plays the main role. Previously, he played supporting roles in two of David Cronenberg’s most realistic films, Shadow promises AND A dangerous methodworn by the director’s favorite actor Viggo Mortensen.

If it is impossible at the moment to know whether Viggo Mortensen was initially wanted for the role of Karsh, we must note that the two actors resemble each other, both in morphology and in the hardness and sharpness of their faces, in their penetrating glances and smiles. predators. And the newcomer to the Cronenberg universe, Guy Pearce, as Maury, Karsh’s geeky and paranoid brother, also resembles them…

A battlefield without a battle

Presenting a brilliant supporting role: Vincent Cassel’s performance in Shadow promises is memorable – in the first line, David Cronenberg invites not an action but to sit in a mindscape, in a psychological backdrop in which the character is lost, as is the viewer.

The Shrouds
The Shrouds ┬ęPyramide Films

The Shrouds it doesn’t have the visual punch of other David Cronenberg films. Nor does it really have the full size of body horror, even though we can see bodies mutilated by suspicious medicines. That’s because, once again, the deed has already been done: Becca’s death. The Shroudswith difficulty, it also mixes what initially resembles an intimate drama and a morbid love story a paranoid spy thriller when Karsh, his brother Maury, and Becca’s twin sister Terry believe they uncover a plot to turn the GraveTech system into a global surveillance device. But is it true, or does it only exist in the sick brains of these characters poisoned by pain that they don’t know how – or don’t want – to face?

David Cronenberg in the grave of his cinema

These “streamer” shrouds, whose video resolution Karsh is so proud of, beyond their dramatic interest in the film’s plot, represent David Cronenberg’s cinema and camera. Obsessed with the body and its life, with its mutilation and its transformation, as he is also with the concept of double identity – and in Les Shrouds triple -, film the next of a life and a death, captures of a drama what remains for eternity: the absence of the loved one.

Like a sailboat without sails, like a love without reciprocity, like an intrigue without stakes, The Shrouds it unfolds flatly. At the risk, at times, of seeming staged like a prestige television film… But in this way David Cronenberg undoubtedly intends to identify this void and make it palpable. Trying something when there is nothing left to do but die, for him as for Karsh.

Triple Diane Kruger

There was talk of triple identity. Diane Kruger plays Becca in Karsh’s nightmarish-erotic memories, is also Terry, his conspiratorial and paranoid twin sister, and finally voices her as Hunny, Karsh’s AI assistant created by her brother Maury. Maury, who is none other than Terry’s ex-husband…

The Shrouds
The Shrouds ┬ęPyramide Films

Therefore, whether dead (Becca) or alive (Terry), the female protagonist is also an artificial intelligence. This dematerialization makes sense. As the dead woman’s bones rot and Terry’s living body fades, Hunny exists fully on the screens of Karsh, a young blonde woman who transforms into a koala or takes on the guise of Becca’s mutilated body. When the bodies are all gone, what will remain but immortal virtual creations that no longer belong to anyone, too tied to everyone to be one?

This element of AI exists here in the perspective of a critical gaze, since it is also the representation of “new” ghosts. Whether the voice and appearance of the loved one return to us in dreams, in reality through twinning, or in virtuality on the screens, man would thus condemn himself to the impossibility of total disappearanceand therefore at the end of the mourning?

A unique philosophy, of great melancholy

Film of global decomposition, where the lie ends up prevailing over the truth – it is impossible to know whether the conspiracy involving Russians and Chinese is reality or a common invention -, The Shrouds can be understood, in its general intention, from one of the very first sentences of the film: “Sadness makes your teeth rot“, pronounced by his dentist in Karsh. A medical reality, since in fact the profound sadness, depression, unhappiness experienced, can reach the mineral density, and therefore the very structure of a body.

Paralyzed by sadness, David Cronenberg demineralizes thus his new film and frees him from the vital and morbid energy that has extraordinarily animated his filmography. From this movie The Shrouds Thus reduced to his skeleton, almost emaciated and paralyzed, David Cronenberg then brings out a unique melancholy and a monotony that is as abysmal as it is imperturbable. A gesture that turns out to be radical, despite its almost anecdotal tone, to create a film with a depth that is difficult to access but moving.

Source: Cine Serie

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