By Isabel Williams, Second Year, English
In Brandon Cronenberg’s latest cinematic release Infinity Pool (2023), sci-fi body horror and a Victorian-esque fear of the foreign combine to create a psychologically unnerving story of extreme exploitation.
When the central protagonist, unsuccessful novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård), arrives looking for inspiration at an exclusive seaside resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqa, the last thing he expects to encounter is Gabi (Mia Goth): an actress who is a regular at the resort and claims to be a huge fan of James’ only published novel.
Before long, James and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are persuaded to leave the confines of the barbed wire enclosed resort to explore the local countryside. Things turn for the worst when a drunk-driving accident occurs, and James quickly finds himself in trouble with the law.
Under threat of his life from Li Tolqa’s conservative regime, James agrees to partake in a macabre alternative form of punishment, upon which he is quickly sucked into a previously unknown world of hedonistic debauchery and twisted exploits at the hands of the resort’s affluent guests.
Infinity Pool falls into a similar vein as television and cinema productions such as Parasite (2017) and White Lotus (2022-) in that they all hold the overwhelming influence of the upper class as central to their respective narratives:
Much of the horror resides in the underlying knowledge that no matter how horrific the acts committed by these upper-class members of society, they will ultimately come out on top.
Infinity Pool is punctuated throughout by dark, witty humour, highlighting the careless manner in which only the sensationally rich and privileged are able to flirt with death and get away with it.
However, where the film differs slightly is that this portrayal of class dynamics is woven intimately with questions of identity and regeneration.
Due to their monetary power, the resort’s visitors are virtually indestructible, treating the impoverished country of Li Tolqa as their own personal playground in a manner that reeks of colonialist privilege.
In the face of this, James’ insecure desire to escape a version of himself that he does not like makes him easy prey for the resort’s other inhabitants. As he becomes more and more wrapped up in the allure of their secret society, his sense of self is gradually eroded.
Amongst this action, Mia Goth’s performance threatens to steal the show. The actress seems to have truly found her niche within the genre of arthouse horror, displaying her immense talent once again after having graced our screens in the recent A24 horror release X (2022) and its prequel Pearl (2022).
Her portrayal of Gabi fluctuates seamlessly between snobbish nonchalance and maniacal malevolence, a combination of anarchic seductress and entitled brat that many would struggle to pull off as well as Goth does.
The main downfall of Infinity Pool is that much of it comes across as underdeveloped. James’ growing apathy to the repeated violence inflicted upon those considered less worthy of life; his inability to fully escape his past self; the question of what makes a person innately themselves are all notions that are aired vaguely without being fully expounded upon, replaced instead by drawn out psychedelic sex scenes.
There are other aspects of the film that feel a little stale: the rotating cinematography set to an ominous soundtrack is reminiscent of the iconic camerawork used in the horror movie Midsommar (2019) but serves only to highlight how Midsommar did it with more suspense.
The main Dostoevskian cause of drama is an exhausted cliché that renders the climax of the movie and many of its plot twists predictable; even the ending, whilst poignant to some extent, dwindles off indecisively without much of a cinematic punch or a resounding note.
That being said, the film is excellent in its depiction of manipulation, using many dreamy visuals, and is worth seeing for Goth’s performance, if nothing else.
Featured Image: Mia Goth // Courtesy of IMDB
Will you be watching Infinity Pool?