I didn’t no what to expect when I began Spider (2002), for David Cronenberg it’s visually a distinct departure from his usual style on the surface. Basing the action of the film in Britain, which for me was more engaging, not being put off by the architecture such as the gasometers that feature around the urban landscape in 1980’s Britain. Where we find a disturbed Spider/Cleg (Ralph Fiennes) as he steps off a train, layered in shirts trundling along in his own world, not really aware of what is going on.
He has been released from a mental institution to a halfway house, he should be on the road to recovery. Not in the world of Cronenberg, things can only get darker and darker, never does it get better for his characters, not even in cosy little Britian. Spider begins to ease into his new surroundings, the symptoms of schizophrenia start to become evident in the behaviours we see. He’s not so bothered about his present where his only friend is a fellow patient Terrance (John Neville) to keep him company.
It’s his childhood that preoccupied Spider who we see lingering outside his old family home and haunts of his father. We see a young spider in the 1960’s who loves his parents (Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne). Something they don’t have for each other. We see how a quiet boys life is turned upside down in a short space of time. The marriage is soon tested when the two go to the local pub, Bill Cleg (Byrne) is tempted by another woman. Whilst his wife is left to wonder.
This is made more sinister by casting Rihardson in both roles, which on a few levels, the blurred perception of young Spider who obviously loves his mum. Whilst for the dad Yvonne is a more attractive un-married version of his wife. Lastly it messes with the audiences perceptions, are we seeing two different women or the same one in different clothes. The dark trick really comes into effect when the mother is killed, and Yvonne moves in, a physically identical yet very different woman in terms of personality. For young Spider this is too much, knowing the truth, unable to express his feelings. Alongside an all British cast that becomes part of Croneberg’s dark disturbing world, what more can you ask for?
Spider is no ordinary child who has friends, we have a younger version of the Fiennes Spider, we see how he became the man in the half-way house. The string in his bedroom that creates his own webbed network is first seen to be just a childish quirk to pass the time.
By the end of the film we see a return to the former Spider, we see what he is capable off, both as a child and adult, which scares the audience. The child has a clearer sense of judgement, knowing what his actions will do. Whilst the older schizophrenic Spider is less aware in his own disturbed world, it makes sense to him, but not to others how he gets to his conclusions. Fienne’s transforms into a disturbed man like we have never seen before, an actor with chameleon qualities who hardly utters a word, down to his gestures so thought through they come across natural to the audience.
- Movie Review – Spider (2002) (manofyesterday.wordpress.com)
- Body horror: Talking the best of David Cronenberg (metronews.ca)
- David Cronenberg Evolution (thelastphotographer.wordpress.com)
- SPIDER (David Cronenberg, 2002) (grunes.wordpress.com)
- REVIEW: David Cronenberg’s “Spider”  (natevalence.wordpress.com)
- The Cronenberg Chronicle – Phase Four: Spider (2002) (reviewedbymarkleonard.wordpress.com)
- 34. Canadian David Cronenberg’s “Spider” (2002): What is real? Detection within the world of the insane mind (moviessansfrontiers.blogspot.co.uk)