As we get older and older, we start remembering events from our childhood more vividly. We start looking for that thread that led us to the place we’re in now. And Spider, a slow-burning psychological drama by David Cronenberg zeroes in on this concept. The movie is based on a novel of the same name written by Patrick McGrath, who was also in charge of writing an appropriate script. The final piece of the puzzle is the lead role. Ralph Fiennes gave another stunning performance of a man trying to come to terms not only with his past but also his present.
A man who’s suffering from schizophrenia and who just got out of a mental institution. Over the years, we’ve seen many movies where the lead character suffers from some kind of mental illness. You have uplifting and positive movies like A Beautiful Mind or even the eighties sleeper hit Rain Man. Or you have a more realistic depiction of everything that such a character has to go through like Shine. Spider belongs to that other, more realistic series of movies about people dealing with mental health issues.
It puts you in the shoes of a man that you’ll see is not much different from me or you in most regards. However, in one of them, he’s very different. Cronenberg already explored a similar topic with his nineties masterpiece Crash. That was a movie about a community of people who are turned on by car accidents, injuries, and cars themselves. I know, I know, if you haven’t seen it, I promise you it’s a great movie. And while that was a highly sexually charged movie, Spider is more about the sheer brutal reality that is the daily life of Dennis Cleg, who friends call Spider.
Spider just got off the train and now he’s slowly making his way to the halfway house. Spider just got out of a mental institution and the real world feels strange to him. And he feels strange to the real world too. Finally free, he begins to remember certain events from his childhood. Events that left a huge mark on him and that he cannot seem to shake away. It would appear that the only solution left is to confront them head-on.
In any criminal case, the most important question is why, why did this happen. And Spider, a brilliant character study of a disturbed mind, offers the fleeting notion of an answer to that question. I don’t want to reveal too much, as always because I want you to enjoy this journey as much as I did. Recently, another movie explored this topic of “what could’ve been” and memories. So, I’m talking about Jaco Van Dormael’s epic Mr. Nobody starring Jared Leto. I also have to mention The Machinist starring Christian Bale. And deeply disturbing French drama that’s going to fuck you up, I Stand Alone.
Speaking of perspective, the events we’ll see unfold here are filtered through Spider’s mind. This means there won’t be many anchors or things to hold on to. And while you’re trying to make sense of what’s going on in the movie you’ll slowly come to the realization that this is what Spider is also trying to do. And if you want to go down the rabbit hole of mommy issues, this is also a great movie for that. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Finally, I have to add that Spider is a rather slow and atmospheric movie. This means you need to be in the right mood to absorb it properly. Don’t force it, just keep it on the back burner and one day you’ll remember to play it.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Patrick McGrath
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Lynn Redgrave, Philip Craig
Fun Facts: Cronenberg, Fiennes, Richardson, and the produces of the movie did not recieve any salary during the filming process. They instead invested all of that money into the production.