'Crimes of the Future' Premiere Met with Audience Walkout, Seven-Minute Standing Ovation

David Cronenberg returned to Cannes with his first sci-fi body horror production since 1999

BY Kayla HigginsPublished May 25, 2022

On Monday (May 23), Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg's long-awaited new film Crimes of the Future premiered at Cannes Film Festival to a polarizing audience — one that saw dozens walk out midway through the premiere, and one that honoured the film with a seven-minute standing ovation [via Variety]. 

According to film distributor NeonCrimes of the Future is rated R for "strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity and some language," which apparently include a vivid child autopsy scene, close-ups of bloody intestines and characters who orgasm when they lick each other's open wounds. Those who left the film were unable to stomach just exactly what they were seeing; those who stuck around, however, were a favourable jury.

"I'm very touched by your response," Cronenberg reportedly said after the ovation. "I hope you're not kidding. I hope you mean it."

Crimes of the Future finds the director back in sci-fi body horror-mode for the first time since his 1999 production eXistenZ — and while the lengthy applause seems to have surprised him, he definitely expected the walkouts.

This isn't the first time a controversial Cronenberg film has been met with a more-than dissatisfied audience: the 1996 premiere of Crash — starring James Spader as a film producer who zooms in on a group of people deriving sexual pleasure from car crashes — had viewers booing when they stormed out of the theatre.

In the new film, Viggo Mortenson — who has reunited with Cronenberg for the third time to create the forthcoming gore-show — plays a dedicated, rather disillusioned performance artist in a dystopian universe who has his organs operated on in a pseudo-sexual ritual. The film also stars Kristen Stewart, who plays an employee at the transplant centre, and Léa Seydoux.

The official Crimes of the Future synopsis reads: "As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice (Seydoux), Saul Tenser (Mortensen), celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances. Timlin (Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements, which is when a mysterious group is revealed. Their mission: to use Saul's notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution."

Crimes of the Future opens in theatres on June 3.

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