The Grotesque 'Infinity Pool' Is Worth Wading Into Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman
Published Jan 27, 2023It's official: this is Mia Goth's world and we're all just living in it. Ever since her feature film debut in Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac in 2013, Goth has proven herself to be one of the most interesting actors of her generation. Thanks to her sensational performances in Ti West's X and Pearl, 2022 was a banner year for the young actress, and 2023 is off to a banging start with yet another tremendous turn in Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool.
In a distinctly more glamorous role than Pearl, Goth plays Gabi Bauer, a commercial actress vacationing with her husband and friends on the fictional island of Li Tolqa. Staying at the same luxury resort is James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman). After James catches Gabi's eye, she and her husband invite the Fosters for dinner; unfortunately, on their way back to the resort with James driving, the group get into a car accident, killing a pedestrian. Gabi demands that they all return to the resort without calling the police, warning James and Em that Li Tolqa are an uncivilized people with low morals.
The next morning, James and Em are visited by the local police who inform James that Li Tolqa has a zero tolerance policy for crime, and, in the case of a killing like this, the children of the deceased are to execute those responsible. Should the guilty party be able to afford it, however, Li Tolqa can arrange for an exact double of that person be made for execution instead, with the condition that "the original" witness their death.
It turns out, Gabi and her friends are aware of this loophole in Li Tolqa's legal system and have been using it to their benefit, treating the island as a playground for their most wanton desires. While Em is repulsed by this, James finds himself pushing the limits of his morality.
As one would expect from a Cronenberg vehicle, Infinity Pool is wild and pretty gross; his movies aren't for the faint of heart to say the least. Beyond the feral and rabid, though, Cronenberg's unique eye for imagery will paint some haunting sequences that are compelling and unsettling. Infinity Pool may be Cronenberg's most visually rich endeavour of his three films, using the lush landscapes of Croatia and Hungary to his advantage.
Skarsgård turns out one of the most dynamic performances of his career as the corruptible James. He's given a lot to work with, and he sinks his teeth into every scene with a dedicated commitment to the cause. But, of course, it's Goth who steals the show. She's glammed up to the nines with a wretched personality and delivers lines in a decidedly abrasive tone that can be pleasantly grating at times ("Jamesssssyyyyyy"). Goth is carving out a space all to herself in Hollywood, and I am here for it.
Thematically, Infinity Pool goes for some big swings — confrontation with mortality, morality without consequences, hedonism and the debauchery of privileged tourists in a foreign land to name but a few. And while each swing lands a hit, none of them are home runs. Infinity Pool raises topical questions but never dives too deep into any single one. Oddly, though, I don't think that this takes away from the overall film. Usually, a superficial grazing will result in a movie feeling empty, but in the case of Infinity Pool, the ending should leave one hollow and dazed.
Like Cronenberg's other work, Infinity Pool is not for the masses. It's grotesque and unsightly, but for those of us who love our body horror and indulgent orgy scenes with a side of social commentary, Infinity Pool is certainly worth wading into. (Elevation)