To coincide with the BFI’s Sci-Fi season Chapter Arts and Darkened rooms hosted a screening of David Cronenberg’s The Fly at Techniquest in Cardiff Bay. The night was a celebration of all things science and grotesque and was thoroughly enjoyable. Upon entering Techniquest one is presented with a place filled with vibrant colours and knowledge. Prior to the feature those who came were allowed to explore and experiment with the various contraptions scattered around the vast hall. The brightly coloured activities calls out to the inner child in us all and implores it to seek out the many scientific secrets concealed within them. The event was well attended and it was very encouraging to see so many people interested in seeing old films presented as they should be seen. Furthermore it was endearing to see the local proprietor of cinema and culture, Chapter Arts being supported. This is great news as it is the independent cinemas that tend to put on unique events such as these.
The film itself stands undoubtedly as a classic of the horror genre and with good cause. It resides amongst Cronenberg’s canon of ‘body horror’ due to its vast amount of gore that is also present in his other films such as Shivers, Videodrome and Scanners. The cast give brilliant performances that provide the characters with more depth than you might expect from the average horror film. With that being said special praise must be given to Jeff Goldblum who manages to be simultaneously tragic and comedic. Perhaps his greatest achievement in the film is his depiction of the transformation into the ‘Brundlefly’. He embodies an insect-like demeanour that adds, that is to say as much as it is possible, a sense of authenticity that when coupled with the fantastic special effects leaves no doubts in the viewer’s mind about the metamorphosis.
The special effects still hold up to scrutiny today considering that the film was released in nineteen eighty six. It is great to see practical effects which have fallen so out of fashion with the CGI orientated movie making landscape of today. The special effects are genuinely grotesque and those of a squeamish disposition may find it to be uncomfortable viewing. However if you can see past that there is a lot of sub-text within the film that has allowed it to remain relevant today. Although this might seem a bizarre thing to say about a film in which a man turns into a fly it is certainly true. Beneath the thick oozing layers of gore is an allegory for the aids epidemic of the nineteen eighties. Moreover the film can also be understood as being about disease in general and with the recent Ebola crisis it is easy to see how the depiction of one who is sick and how they are treated is relevant today.
As usual Cronenberg’s direction is sublime with an ability to present the surreal events that take place with a sense of physicality and realism. Not only that, Cronenberg manages to evoke the humanity in a man who is becoming increasingly less human. It is this that might actually be the film’s greatest attribute, the ability to find something universal to the human experience in such an absolutely unique scenario. There is a real sense of the tragic genre outline with the rise and fall of Seth Brundle and the fracturing or rather the transformation of his identity.
Chapter Arts and Darkened Rooms are hosting another series of film screenings in Caerphilly Castle, the details of which can be found on the Chapter Arts website. It is unique experience and one that I would definitely recommend to those looking to enjoy cinema in unusual and exciting ways. David Cronenberg currently has a film in theatres now called Maps to the Stars which marks a drastic difference from his roots within the horror genre. Although with Cronenberg being at the helm it is likely that it will be interesting if nothing else.