The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986, USA/UK/Canada)

                The Fly is arguably the commercial pinnacle of David Cronenberg’s career. Produced by Mel Brooks’ company, who were also responsible for The Elephant Man, the film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $60 million dollars. It also landed Cronenberg his only Oscar, this time for Best Makeup. While the film incorporates the “body horror” and psychological terror of Cronenberg’s other work, it does so in a less oblique manner. It also anchors this horror to a largely sympathetic protagonist, played by Jeff Goldblum. While Seth Brundle is an outsider, he is nevertheless a sympathetic outsider, and we empathize with his demise.              

               Clocking in at a lean near 90 minutes, the action of The Fly is largely contained to Seth Brundle’s apartment/lab, and the action centers around a triangle between Brundle, his love interest – science journalist Ronnie Quaife (Geena Davis), and her ex-lover/boss Stathis Borans (John Getz). While the film is tragic, there are many humorous moments in the film. This is largely the result of Jeff Goldblum, whose persona as we know it today was already fully formed in 1986. He brings life and energy to a script that, in the wrong hands, could have been humorless.

               While there are many Cronenberg-ism’s in the film – Seth Brundle’s monologue about conquering “the flesh” feels like something out of Videodrome – the film’s metaphorical nature is not over-the-top. The film poses questions about the nature of life – is a carbon copy teleportation really the same person? – in a way that is thoughtful. Arriving amidst the AIDS crisis, the film has largely been viewed in retrospect as a metaphor for this disease, or simply losing a loved one to a prolonged and terrible illness. This is the emotional core of the film, and it is hard not to be moved by Brundle’s ultimate transformation.



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