Cronenberg and Cosmopolis

Post-Modern author Don DeLillo has written three novels since his magnum optus Underworld was released to critical acclaim in 1997, The Body Artist (2001) Cosmopolis (2003) and Falling Man (2007).

Although applauded by critics, director David Cronenberg’s last two features, A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007) have been a departure from his previous work. Neither were Science Fiction or Horror films, neither were written by Cronenberg and, depending on who you talk too, they are his most accessible and straight forward pictures.

Since Cosmopolis’s release, and since audiences and critics alike noticed the shift in his work, rumours began circulating that Cronenberg’s next feature would be an adaptation of DeLillo’s book, a project that has been in and out of development since early last year and since the release of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Considering his later films, it is understandable what may have drawn Cronenberg to this materiel. His films have evolved from focusing on the disintegration of the human body through sex, disease and violence, through to a focus on the break down and reconstruction of the individual and their minds (his frank depiction of sex is comparable to the style of filmmaker Catherine Brellait). His protagonists have a conflicted, mysterious, unreadable quality and despite feeling like we know them, Tom Stall in A History Of Violence and Nikolai in Eastern Promises remain as mysterious as the actions of his characters in his previous films. Eric Packer, the protagonist of Cosmopolis, is similar to Stall and Nikolai, and will be as equally charismatic and mysterious if portrayed properly on screen.

Throughout the course of one day, Packer, a lonely, shy, conflicted 28 year old multi-billionaire asset manager drives around the streets of Manhattan in his limousine on a quest to get a haircut. The city is at a standstill, his limo interrupted at several points by the funeral of a slain rapper, a presidential visit and a protest. He speaks to his friends, his assistant, and his wife, who he keeps on accidentally seeing at different points on his journey. Outside two unseen enemies plot to attack him. When Packer’s fortune is stolen he makes sure that it has all been taken, so as his burden of wealth and his responsibility can be alleviated. He arrives home happier than he has ever been, only to have the second enemy waiting there to kill him.

Instead of feeling excited about the adaptation because I love Cosmopolis (like other adaptations I have written on) I am more curious to see it complete the loose trilogy that began with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. The subject matter of all three will be similar, each focusing on a strong male protagonist who seems well rounded and easily understood but inside is vulnerable, conflicted and mysterious. The moments of change, the sequences when audience realises the protagonists aren’t so complete, have always been finely captured with Cronenberg’s direction. Seeing the style grow and the moments become more realised, will be something to look forward too.


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