Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review - Splice (2009 - Dir. Vincenzo Natali)

There is so much wrong with this Canadian/French tale of genetically engineered frolics that it's surprising how enjoyable the experience ends up. I'd go as far as saying that it's the most engaging film I've watched this year, but I'm not sure it's the best.

Let's start with the downside. The two lead actors Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead) and Adrien Brody (The Pianist) are both awful, which is a surprise really as they are both cracking actors. They do an amazing job of combining awkwardness, woodenness, gawkiness and bad fashion in the creation of the superstar scientist couple, Elasa and Clive. The script is equally suspect as everything happens so quickly it defies belief; it's like the genetic engineering equivalent of 20-20 cricket. Then halfway through the film we get thrown Elsa's back-story and this seems to accelerate the progression of events even further. Clive has a hell of a lot of explaining to do with his antics and he doesn't even have a back-story to bail him out!  To be fair it would have taken a good two and a half hours to do the story justice and the budget was just not there for that level of indulgence.

But what makes it such a good film then? As Natali says repeatedly on the extras, it is a film that had to be made. That passion, enthusiasm and vision shines through despite all the problems, most of which were caused by the lack of budget I'm guessing.

The major highlights are the Dren character itself, which is a triumph on the special effect front, and Delphine Chaneac is easily the best actor on show, making the character creepy, believable and strangely attractive. The atmosphere of the film is weird rather than scary and I like the clinical green tinge to proceedings. The plot is equally strange and even though you know the destination you never know quite how you're going to get there. Best of all is the overall metaphor of disfunctional parenthood. The whole thing could be repackaged as a guide for how not to bring up a child and Elsa and Clive could do worse than watch some episodes of Supernanny; the naughty step usually works without the need for amputation when Jo Frost uses it. Let's just file Clive's action's in Lupin the Third territory.

All in all it's great fun, and the bad acting and weaknesses in the plot can easily be forgiven in light of Natali's determination and ambition. It's a work of flawed genius, but definitely worth a watch.


If you like this you could also try:
Cube, Creep, Mimic.

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