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|London Film Festival Review: Antiviral|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Sunday, 14 October 2012 07:28|
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
BE Bond, James Bond. That’s what adverts have been screaming at audiences for years. But what about catching his herpes? Contracting his cold? Dying of 007’s chlamydia? Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral creates a world in which people’s obsession with celebrities has scaled new lows. Devoted followers can now inject themselves with the same illness as their idols, sharing the symptoms in a synergy of disease.
Working for The Lucas Clinic, Syd (Jones) extracts and mutates the viruses ready for the mass market. He strolls around in a daze, pale-faced and weak – and there’s a reason for that. He smuggles out the bacteria every night in his blood, to sell on to dealers for cash. One injection too many and he finds himself dying from the same mysterious flu as female superstar Hannah Geist. Can he find a cure? Will he like she did? Is it even a real virus?
Antiviral’s portrayal of a sick society is infectious at first, settling in under the skin. Caleb Landry Jones coughs with all the force of Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off, selling his condition with a convincing pale pallor, while the production design is creepily sterile – and even more terrifying if you hate constant close-ups of needles.
But once the illness starts to spread, it slips out of focus. Corporate men in suits enter the frame and the pulse sadly drops; a little tighter and this gripping fever could really take hold.
Nonetheless, Brandon’s unsettling satire is full of great ideas. The most unsettling goes unspoken: cafes in the background breed steaks spawned from the cells of their favourite stars, literally serving them up to the fans as pieces of meat.
Many of these concepts, you could argue, are borrowed (unintentionally?) from his dad. But if he’s inherited the Cronenberg condition, we’re lucky he’s caught the filmmaking bug too. Antiviral packs a stronger punch than A Dangerous Method – a promising prognosis for the director’s future.