CINEPHILE: In Utero

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Dead Ringers (Dir. by David Cronenberg, 115 minutes, USA 1988)

cinephileavatar-copy.thumbnail.jpgBY EGINA MANACHOVA David Cronenberg, never one to shy away from the macabre, gives us Dead Ringers — a chilling, highly stylized psychological drama based on the novel Twins and starring Jeremy Irons as a pair of very successful, identical twin gynecologists. With a shared penchant for fine Italian furniture and smartly tailored suits, the titular twin brothers — Elliot and Beverly — manipulate each other and all those around them for their perverse, personal gain. Their approach to relationships with women is as cold and clinical as their practice — when debonair Elliot tires of his lovers he hands them down to reserved Beverly, leaving the women none the wiser as to whom they are bedding. Then she walks in: The women who will be their undoing. Claire Niveau, a famous actress with an uterine anomaly, visits the renowned doctors in an attempt to get pregnant. The brothers engage in a duplicitous relationship with her leading to an infamous sex scene involving rubber tubing, surgical clamps and, um,  a lot of conversation. As Beverly’s emotional attachment to Claire grows he begins forging a new identity sans Elliot. Troubled and torn by separation anxiety, he slowly but steadily descends into a drug-fueled psychosis. Just to be clear: Jeremy Irons is fucking brilliant in this role. He portrays the brothers with such nuance and reserve. Watching him play their descent into madness is like standing on a track as a train slowly descends on you, mesmerizing and horrifying all at once. Claire’s rare condition becomes a point of obsession for Beverly. He goes so far as to design gynecological equipment to deal with her abnormality, which he is beginning to see in all women. The use of these mystifying tools makes for some of the most harrowing and darkly fetishistic surgical scenes ever committed to celluloid. Eventually the jig is up and the brothers are forcibly removed from their practice. Ruined, they are left isolated with their demons and the severely disturbing co-dependent relationship that will eventually destroy them. This film is a compelling and complex study of the nature of personal identity and gender interaction. Some have said that men crawl out of the womb only to spend the rest of their days trying to get back in. David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers presents a very literal, fascinating, and sophisticated interpretation of this quest to return to the blissful ignorance and amnionic nirvana of life in utero.

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