Cronenberg’s Masterpiece: Dead Ringers
Apparently, I’m not equipped to review this film for 2 reasons. The first is, obviously, that I’m a colossal dunderhead with sensibilities fit for watching a dwarf eat his own head, but entirely unfit for watching subtle, psychological horror (and that I keep maintaining that Dead Ringers isn’t a horror film, but a tragedy). The second, and far more important one, is that I’m male and therefore the film doesn’t hit me in the genitals the same way that it does with women. For example, I have no fear at all of the gynaecologist.
Therefore, with no further ado, I hand you over to Mrs. Jarv. So behave yourselves, else I’ll set the boreworms on you.
When I was asked by Jarv if I wanted to do something for Moonwolves I envisioned reviewing something fluffy or girly, like Sex in the City. Don’t get me wrong, I intensely dislike most romcoms especially those starring Kate Hudson (wow does she represent lowest common dominator of suburban housewife aspiration) but Dead Ringers? As my Uncle Roger who was very fond of the occasional joint would have said “That is some heavy shit man” and I think that applies even by Cronenberg’s standards. One of the things to bear in mind from the beginning is that most women will not experience this film the same way as your average man. Therefore in good conscience I must start with a warning to all women reading this, after watching this you may feel slightly violated and if you have a fear about visiting the gynaecologist this is not the film for you.
The story revolves around twin gynaecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons) loosely based on the real life gynaecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus. Both highly intelligent and wildly successful they run a prestigious fertility clinic in Toronto. In a flashback sequence we see that even in childhood the brothers were obsessed with surgery, reproduction and had an eerie mental connection. Fast forward into the future and Elliot and Beverly are sharing a medical practice, an apartment and most troublingly their women (often with out said woman’s knowledge).
Elliot is the confident, social and domineering twin that gives the acceptance speeches and woos the ladies while Bev is the passive academic who carries out the research that has made their reputation in medical circles and is consigned to Elliot’s sloppy seconds from the bedroom. They are perceived as two halves of a whole by not only themselves but by those around them. They are constantly introducing themselves or being referred to as “The Mantle Twins” and it is this perceived lack of distinct identity that foreshadows their demise.
This delicate balance is unsettled by over-the-hill, pill popping actress Claire Niveau. The character is brilliantly portrayed by Geneviève Bujold who captures perfectly the insane look of the type of woman you see on Lifetime TV discussing her third unsuccessful IVF treatment. It turns out that Claire is a “trifurcate” meaning her reproductive system has “three doorways,” which means she probably will not be able to have children. On a side note I looked up “trifurcate” and as I suspected this term has never had any application to gynaecology and was re-applied by Cronenberg. I have a high tolerance for weird and disgusting shit but really, that is just gross. Anyway, she comes to the twin’s famous clinic for help. Upon inspection (I am crossing my legs as I write this) Beverly proceeds to fall madly in love with her. This precipitates an increasingly gross game of sloppy seconds which in turns leads to the twin’s relationship unravelling into drug fuelled black hole of angst and their truly horrific deaths.
One of the things to love (or hate) about this film is the numerous opportunities put to good use everything you learned in your freshman year psychology class. To name but a few…women’s anxiety about children and fertility, prescription drug addiction, co-dependency, twin separation anxiety, God complex, self harm ect ect ect…
If abnormal psychology is not your bag then stick around for Jeremy Irons amazing performance. There is no Lyndsey Lohan ‘I know who killed me’ nonsense with the altered hair styles, accents and wardrobe to guide us. Beverly and Elliot’s hairstyles are identical, their cloths (1980’s smart casual, you know sweater vests and the like) interchangeable. It is Jeremy Irons performance that differentiates the two and what a performance it is! One word for it… Magnificent. We know from the moment he opens his mouth which twin he is playing without any of the usual crutches. He elevates what could potentially have been a stomach churning exploration of the perverse into something that is surprising touching and tragic. One can overlook the weird gynaecological instruments and freaky fetish sex and appreciate the slow painful destruction of two brothers who cannot live with each other and cannot live without each other….literally.
As my Uncle Roger used to say…. Deep Man.
Not a lot for me to add really, aside from that she didn’t mention the horrific umbilical cord nightmare, or that while the end of this film is deeply predictable, it’s also very, very sad. Finally, because no review of this film is complete without this- I present the show-stopper of Dead Ringers, and something that women everywhere fear:
So, that’s nearly me done with this review- just one final note to say that I honestly believe Dead Ringers is an essential film and I give it a well-earned maximum: 4 Changs.
Next up, it’s the amazingly ill-advised adaptation of Naked Lunch, and unfortunately, me again.
Now she’d better finish that Avatar review…
Until next time,
The order so far: