After 20 years in a hospital for the mentally ill suffering from schizophrenia, Dennis Spider Cleg is released to live in a boarding house for recovering mental patients on the outskirts of London. Returning to his childhood haunts, Spider starts to rel
Spider is one of those truly baffling oddities: a film that has brilliance in it, yet almost does its best to hide it. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patrick McGrath, the film gives Ralph Fiennes’ eponymous central character little to do other than wander around a haunted and desolate London, only muttering occasionally, re-enacting traumatic scenes from his childhood.
Having a central character whose role in the film is entirely passive makes for very difficult viewing, and while Fiennes’ performance is impressive and committed, it is not one from which we can derive any pleasure.
The film, which director Cronenberg describes as a psychodrama influenced by Samuel Beckett, is as minimal and perplexing as anything the playwright himself produced. After the criticism of his last film, eXistenZ, as insubstantial fun, it’s almost as if Cronenberg wanted to make a film that was its polar opposite. Fluffy and light this is not.
An un-cinematic film from an un-cinematic novel, Spider is a highly skilled piece of filmmaking that seems determined to leave its audience frustrated and unsatisfied.