Cosmopolis – David Cronenberg – 2012



What is Cosmopolis? It is a snapshot of that moment where hubris got away from the banks. It is the moment that the system swallowed up the people. As the computers compute trades at faster and faster speeds, even a breath taken during a public financial disclosure announcement can have gigantic repercussions.

Because of his princely status on a throne of unlimited wealth, Eric Packer decides not to have a barber visit him at his office, but instead to drive across town to get a haircut. This same day the president is coming to town, and a much beloved local rapper has died and his funeral procession also impedes Eric’s progress.

Throughout the day, Eric is met with friends and fucks, doctors and killers. Cronenberg allows us inside this alien cocoon so that we can attempt to relate to that most unrelateable of characters, the investment banker.

Both Sara Gadon, and especially Juliette Binoche offer sexual distraction for Packer as his wife and mistress, however, even though sex is a priority for the young executive, he de-values it as he can anything, taking advantage of its ready availability.  He refuses to relate intimately to either of them, preferring only a clinical relationship.

He is so rich he can afford to have a doctor’s appointment every day. On this day, he learns he has an asymmetrical prostate, a metaphor for the unpredictable nature of nature. But Cronenberg doesn’t really let us latch onto that in the same way as the book. Here, chaos and order are represented as equals if not mirror images.

Packer’s reaction to virtually every situation is one of scientific indifference. He is only the spearhead at the end of a ray of inevitability. Evolution is his propellant and he exists as mogul only by virtue of natural selection.

Cronenberg examines this man with such objectivity that you can’t help but to be seduced by the sex and power at his fingertips. There is a credible threat on Eric’s life that has been detected by his security detail. This news hits him as softly as anything. As the film progresses, Packer descends again and again through each moral test with ambivalence, and carelessness that eventually leaves him a murderer with no security to protect him from his actual threat.

The film has a cool futuristic aesthetic that is simultaneously evocative of Cronenberg’s mid to late eighties work. Even though much of the film takes place inside of the limousine, the film never feels claustrophobic; rather it feels distant, separating. Every surface is smooth and soft inside, clean and hermetically sealed, so different from the rat-infested world outside.

As the film ends, with Packer in the apartment  of his would be assassin, we are forced to confront the characters with that scientific eye that Cronenberg is so assertive with. Is Eric Packer simply a child of evolution? Is he the face of the future? Would blowing his brains out do any good, or would it just be pissing in the ocean?

The end of the film is much like I Am Legend, only it’s a legion of men trying to kill one invincible vampire. The greed is the infection, the vampirism. One does not cure vampirism by killing a vampire, no matter how high up the chain. Once a society is infected, one does not cure vampirism at all.


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