The first time I watched David Cronenberg‘s Crash, I was 15 years old, an age that was considered too immature or innocent to watch a film like this. I was already familiar with a few of Cronenberg films (Videodrome and, his most famous one, The Fly, in particular). I was also aware that there were things I might, however theoretically, not be able to handle. But I gave it a shot anyway. However, at the end of Crash, I was left wondering: “Is that all there is?”
Seventeen years later, and with more knowledge about the film, I decided to give it another shot. I had always dismissed it as Cronenberg’s excuse for porn, and my initial reaction, as published on Facebook, was that I still felt that way. Nevertheless, I gave myself time to digest and reflect upon the film.
While my rate of the film remains the same (5/10 or 3.5 over 5); I can’t help acknowledging its probable influence on other films that, in my opinion, did a better job at communicating the subjects Crash attempted to tackle. Anti-erotic sex as a reflection of a frustrated search for human connection were better represented in Steve McQueen‘s Shame and in Lars Von Trier‘s Antichrist; the later perhaps being as cerebral as Crash had the undelivered potential to be. If we talk about our obsession with technology and its impact on human interactions, the Norwegian film The Bothersome Man and even the mainstream Terminator movies deliver the subject more poignantly. I commend Cronenberg for his effort in conveying difficult topics in a bizarre way, but he has done better in most of his other movies.
Perhaps the emptiness of the film was supposed to have a point; to reflect our own existential emptiness and how we go on to fill such voids. We see this in the sex between the characters; the interactions between James and Catherine Ballard (the protagonic married couple), and even in the closing scene. But ultimately, this emptiness proved to be more unsatisfying than unsettling to me.
All that said, the saving grace of the film was in the good acting; the emphasis in shadows and dark colors and the stoic expressions of the characters when having sex. I can’t deny that there was an effort at creating an eerie atmosphere with these elements. Unfortunately, they were more effective many years later in the aforementioned Antichrist and Shame.