There are some absolutely stunning films out there, and Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral is one of them. His 2012 debut feature is without a doubt one of the best-looking films I have ever seen. However, with such a satirical concept at its centre, there is also a fair bit bubbling away beneath the surface. Whilst the current climate took some of the enjoyment out of the film slightly, it was still a fascinating watch.
The film is set in the near future and focuses on an industry that sells celebrity illnesses to obsessive fans. An industry expert (Caleb Landry Jones) wanting to exploit the company he works for becomes mixed up in a potentially deadly mystery when his plans backfire.
The best way I can describe Antiviral is that it’s like an extended episode of Black Mirror
It is so right with what it has to say about our collective obsession with celebrity culture that it’s unnerving. What really bothered me though was the fact that I can actually see this happening in the future. The idea that people would willingly inject Kim Kardashian’s snot into themselves is not entirely out of reach. As depressing as it sounds, Antiviral really appealed to the part of me that has absolutely zero hope for humanity. It’s definitely one for the cynics of this world.
However, as we all know, dark matter can be beautiful, and that is precisely the case here. What struck me immediately was the ridiculous symmetry of so many shots – there wasn’t a hair out of place! Even with movement, the left side of the frame was a perfect mirror of the right. The wonderfully designed sets, however, provided a very clinical vibe and were a stark contrast to the shots that presented them to the world. They added a coolness that prevented the viewer being completely sucked in, and suggested very early on that there would be a sting in this film’s tail.
What is also clear right from the start is that Antiviral is about a sickness. The highly desaturated colour palette made everything in the film look unwell. It was the perfect accompaniment to leading man Caleb Landry Jones’ awesome performance. There’s so much to unpack that I could probably write an entire essay on just his transformation alone. However, the highlights came in the latter half when it became not just a performance, but a physical endeavour. The guy put in a shift and the film was all the better for it.
It probably wasn’t the greatest time to watch a film about manufactured viruses though
There were a few moments where it was like watching the news or witnessing the fallout from yet another conspiracy theory. Some of the stuff in Antiviral unintentionally hits a bit closer to home now than when it was made. Whilst it probably aided its more cynical elements, it was slightly fatiguing in the sense that I felt like I was already living through certain elements of the film. That’s not really anyone’s fault, but figured it might be a good thing to point out.
If you want to watch a wonderfully made film, Antiviral is the one
There is no denying the craftsmanship that went into getting this film put together. Every element has been carefully considered and well executed to create something that is truly stunning. At the heart of everything is a magnificent performance, but the surrounding elements are equally as beautiful in a delightfully messed up way. My one word of warning is this – maybe save it for post-pandemic times because there are moments here that get a little too realistic.