‘Infinity Pool’ Review
What are the consequences of a life without consequences?
That is the, or at least a, question at the heart of Infinity Pool. While vacationing in a fictional, impoverished nation—and filmed in a part of Croatia that looks the part—where Western tourists come to party, failing novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman) fall in with the wrong crowd. Gabi Bauer (Mia Goth) and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert), convince the Fosters to travel beyond their resort’s concertina-wire walls (which guests are strictly forbidden to do) out into the poverty-stricken landscape. After a day of drinking and cavorting, James kills a local with the car he’s driving.
Luckily for James, he’s rich: Rather than exact bloody revenge on him, as is the nation’s “barbarous” custom, the victim’s young son can exact bloody revenge on James’s identical clone, a double with his memories, his feelings, his fears and loves and hopes. Does the privilege of James and his friends grant them impunity, if not immunity, or is the punishment in some way just as real?
It’s a darker twist on the question at the end of The Prestige, in which we learn that the Great Danton killed himself over and over again in the hopes of one day ensnaring his great foe in a trap he could not escape. But something strange happens on the way to the gallows: James realizes he likes what he sees. A sick grin twists onto his face as he watches his double perish. Is this a new form of immortality? Has he slipped the surly bonds of earthly morality and touched his own, godly face? Who is truly the barbarian in this situation: the boy whose honor code demands blood or the man whose lack of honor sends him on a killing spree?
And this is where the question at the top of this review comes in. If you can pay your way out of the most grievous sin imaginable—if you can steal from anyone, maim anyone, kill anyone—what price will you end up paying? Does it change you in some way that matters?
I don’t think this is a particularly profound query; the idea that the rich are amoral sociopaths who use the world as their playground and do just as much damage to each other and themselves as they do the world around them has been fodder for cinema and literature for some time. American Psycho’s European Vacation, perhaps.
But I do think Infinity Pool is a profoundly entertaining spin on the premise, one that succeeds almost entirely because of the manic energy that Mia Goth pours into the role. Goth is just perfectly cast here, in no small part because she’s a compelling combination of beautiful and just slightly off-putting. When her mouth goes wide in a jackal’s grin as she’s pointing a handgun at James, it looks about a third too large for her head; it feels as though she’s able to unhinge her jaw ever so slightly. There’s a rubbery quality to her appearance that served her well in last year’s Pearl, an almost exaggerated state of being. As someone who has been waiting for her to break out since 2016’s A Cure for Wellness, the last 10 months or so—in which she starred in X, Pearl, and Infinity Pool—have been gratifying.
Brandon Cronenberg’s films—Antiviral, Possessor, and Infinity Pool—feel a little like what I imagine the average multiplex denizen imagines a David Cronenberg movie to be: exceedingly, shockingly violent; sexually provocative without being erotic, exactly; obsessed with bodily transformation and the idea of doubling, twinning, cloning. Brandon’s films are a bit more heavily stylized; in Infinity Pool, as in Possessor, there are quickly cut, strobing sequences in which focus is monkeyed with and proportions stretched and faces distended, the idea being to mimic what it’s like to become someone different and the same all at once.
Say what you will about Infinity Pool as an intellectual exercise; the fact remains that it’s a pretty amusing provocation. The descent into amoral madness it portrays is decidedly, almost aggressively, funny at points; our snorted contempt for the characters masks our own complicity in living at least a little vicariously through them.