News / 04 May 2023

Filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg Talks INFINITY POOL Ahead Of Australian Release

Filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg has fast become one of the most compelling voices in the horror genre, with three features to his credit, each complexly layered, steeped in tone and unbridled in their depiction of sex and violence, he stands tall among his peers Ari Aster, Robert Eggers and Julia Ducournau as visionaries of modern genre cinema.

His third feature as writer/director, INFINITY POOL, had its premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival where it was met with a polarising reaction but ultimately reaffirmed his position as a true artisan of the genre.

After having a somewhat neutered theatrical release in the United States, where the film screened in slightly more sanitised version (with some shots switched out and others slightly trimmed), INFINITY POOL will open in Australian Cinemas from May 11 completely ‘uncut‘ and Monster Fest’s Jarret Gahan caught up with Brandon for a chat about the film and his career ahead of the film’s release.

Given you only ventured into filmmaking in your mid-twenties, had cinema been something that always interested you prior and do you recall the moment you realised you wanted to work within the field?

Well I needed a job, ultimately [laughs] I’ve always liked film though I wasn’t specifically a cinephile in the way that some people who get into film are. I liked a range of things. I was kind of a book nerd. I was interested in writing fiction for a while. I was into visual art and doing illustration work. Playing in some extremely terrible bands as well. I was interested in music and at a certain point I kind of realized if I have any shot at getting good at anything, I can’t just try and do all these scattered things. I need to focus on one thing and make some kind of attempt to develop any sort of skill in that one area. And film, aside from being a great artform in and of itself, it’s also a bit of a weird meta art that allows you to explore writing, visual art and music. And so I could keep my interests in all of those things and kind of compact them into one focus.

Curiously you work within horror but is it true that don’t tend to watch too much from within the genre? 

Oh no, I am a horror enthusiast. I do like horror quite a bit actually. What I have said in the past and what is true is that I don’t have a history of being so specifically a horror fan that I can compete with some of my close collaborators who are all encyclopedias of horror film knowledge, and have been specifically horror fans throughout their entire lives. I’m less specifically a horror fan but I love horror movies. I’m in the genre through genuine enthusiasm.
Infinity Pool_Alexander as James2_courtesyofNEONTopicYour latest feature, INFINITY POOL, has come relatively hot on the heels of POSSESSOR. Was INFINITY POOL greenlit off the back of POSSESSOR or had it been set-up to go prior?

I think POSSESSOR helped a lot. I mean, I wrote INFINITY POOL between my first two films, there was a kind of an eight year gap there. So I would say it was still a bit of a five or six year process technically to get INFINITY POOL from the point of having a readable script to actually being a being a film. Certainly I know my first film was a bit of a weird little movie. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire. It has its defenders, but it wasn’t a career-maker. I think POSSESSOR was received a little bit better. Coming out of that film there was a bit more momentum that I could use to get INFINITY POOL financed.

You mentioned the eight year gap between ANTIVIRAL and POSSESSOR, I’m curious if the writer’s block that the character of James has in INFINITY POOL was in anyway autobiographical given the time between those two features for you?

Yes, absolutely. I mean, James isn’t really a stand-in for me overall, in many ways. He is different but the character definitely in part a sort of exercise in self-mockery, kind of making fun of my own insecurities, fear and vanity during a very dry period where I couldn’t get anything made.

That’s interesting as it plays into identity, which I feel is the common theme of thread between POSSESSOR and INFINITY POOL, what is it about that aspect of self that interests you in the writing of your films?

I was possibly having a life crisis [laughs], as I wrote those films. I mean maybe there was something personal there but also you know art is often I think about what it is to be a human being. Filmmaking, regardless of the kind of film, is often about what it is to be human. And I suppose the angle I’m interested in many ways is the basic thing that it is to just even be a self or even coherent continuing entity with an identity in the world. That’s where my brain goes for whatever reason [laughs]. That’s the base level, first of all identity, personal identity, philosophy, interest and there on.
Infinity Pool_Bar_MiaAlexander_courtesyofNEONTopicIn terms of collaborative relationships, you’ve worked with cinematographer Karim Hussain on your previous two films and other projects. How early on does that process begin with Karim?

Usually before I even have a script. I mean we’re incredibly close friends. He lives seven minutes from me, by foot, so we’re quite close. He’s one of my core collaborators Karim Hussain. Also Rob Cotterill, he is another collaborator who’s been on all my films. Usually I’ll start throwing ideas around with them even before I’ve written the script. If I have a treatment, I’ll usually get feedback from them as we all work very closely together.

Karim & I tend to be constantly be experimenting with these kinds of practical camera tricks, knowing that we’re gonna find places for them. Dan Martin, the effects artist that I’ve done my last two features with, has also come into our group. He’s constantly throwing stuff at us, science experiments that he’s doing in London, that then gets folded into the script because I want to play it with some of the stuff that he’s coming up with. It’s a really tight-knit and collaborative group.

I understand with casting that you are often drawn by a spark you sense or feel with an actor but I’m curious if there was any particular work, film or television, from the cast of INFINITY POOL, that lead you to feel they would be a good fit for their role in the film?

With Alex, obviously BIG LITTLE LIES. I forget all he’s done but he’s one of those actors I’ve been seeing over and over again throughout the years but that that’s a recent one. I sort of forget where I first started getting interested in him. But he’s been fascinating this entire time because he is just, you know, one of those rare actors who have the screen presence and charisma to be a Hollywood leading man, but is actually far more interesting than that. He has this incredible edge to him and wants to push himself into these fascinating and dark places. I think a lot of actors can’t do one or the other, or if they have one, they’re too afraid to do the other. He can do both.

Mia, I remember more specifically, I saw her in NYMPHOMANIAC and she blew my mind. From there SUSPIRIA, HIGH LIFE and a few other films over the years. Also, she’s just one of those actors who to me would steal every scene that she’s in who just, she has an undeniable compelling thing where you just can’t take your eyes off what she’s doing every time she comes on-screen. She’s so fascinating.
Infinity Pool_Beach_MiaAlexander_courtesyofNEONTopicCasting Cleopatra Coleman as Em was a terrific choice, not only an incredible actress but an Australian also.

Yes. And by giving her an Australian accent as well, it allowed her to be an brilliant.

I’m curious as to the marketing of your films, particularly in the form of key artwork and trailers. Not only have they been compelling but they genuinely do the impossible task of packaging your films in a way that’s faithful to and complimentary of the films themselves. Often filmmakers are left out of the process but given the nature of your films and their marketing, I was wondering how much say or sway do you have with that?

Generally how it works as a director, at least on an independent film, is you have a certain amount of say in it. You don’t have final approval in but it’s not like a Marvel film where you just don’t have any say in it at all, where it’s just a studio. It’s part of a discussion. And I have a great working relationship with Neon, uh, who took the lead on materials for these last two films. So it’s sort of an ongoing discussion, but they deserve credit for the success of those posters, really. Whatever input I have, ultimately it still comes from their teams.
InfinityPool_Digital_OneSheet_695x1080_ICDWith regards to the reception of your films, do you read film critics’ reviews, even if only following the premiere?

There will be a period right after the release of the film where I’ll read certain reviews, at least from some of the major sites and papers  to kind of get a sense of how it’s going over. Then I stop reading them because why do that to yourself [laughs].

Are able to disclose what we can anticipate next from you, I heard talk of a limited series?

There’s a few things I’m working on, an adaptation of a J.G. Ballard novel called SUPER-CANNES, as a limited series. Then there’s a space horror film that I’ve been developing called DRAGON, which I’ve been trying to get out off the ground. Then there’s a few things that I can’t talk about. I don’t know which will go next, or if any of them will ever happen. You never know what you’re going to be doing next, of course in film.

INFINITY POOL opens in Australian Cinemas May 11