Photographer: Stacy Wong (http://www.sawphotography.ca/)
At CIFF’s black carpet gala on Sept. 28, the line-ups wrapped around the block for the Globe theatre. It was no shock – Brandon Cronenberg (yes, the son of that Cronenberg) was on scene with his debut film Antiviral, a dark, satirical, thriller with plenty of twisted imagery that harkens back to The Fly.
The film follows Syd March (X-Men’s Caleb Landry Jones), an employee of a clinic that harvests celebrity sickness to infect fans. He infects himself with the virus that killed a celebrity, and suddenly finds him himself a target – and perhaps a victim of the virus.
I chatted with Brandon about the film and his first visit to Calgary. Stay tuned for part two of the discussion.
What came first, the sickness or celebrity angle when you were writing the film?
It was the sickness aspect. I started writing it in 2004, I had just started film school. I had got this fairly bad flu and I just started having this fever dream, where I was obsessing over the physical nature of my illness and the weird fact that I had a virus in my body that had come from someone else’s body.
Then I tried to think of a character that could see this disease as something intimate, and I thought of a celebrity obsessed person who could see getting Angelina Jolie’s cold as a good thing.
I’ve noticed that they often show sickness in films from a primarily psychological side. Why did you feel that body horror was the right fit for this story?
I’m not sure! I didn’t set out to specifically make a body horror film. The body stuff was partly to dramatize the illness, but also the sort of physical celebrity fetishes that I wanted to mirror in the film.
So, let’s say hypothetically you have to inject yourself with a celebrity’s disease. Who would you pick?
Anyone who’s offering.
Watching the movie, I noticed that I started to feel culpable, like I was perpetuating this celebrity fandom. Did you try to bring in that sense of voyeurism?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s a very interesting play between what we were criticizing and what we were doing. For Sara Gadon, for instance, she had to be fetishized and become that sort of icon in order to discuss fetishization. And saturate it.
For instance, later in the film, there’s that slow motion shot of Hannah Geist being made up by her people, being sort of ‘prepared’. That was actually footage we got accidentally as Sara was being touched up for a photo shoot – it was kind of a meta nod to what we were doing.
That was a scene where I really noticed the parallels between losing control of your body, and the very controlled, clean shots you used as a filmmaker.
To a certain extent, the shot construction sort of mirrors that vibe between celebrity non-human media constructs and the physical human being.