Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Splice" (2010) - Movie Review

Creating a new life form lets the screenwriter loose on a wide ground not only to vividly stretch their imagination but to take bad advantage of that boundary to do anything they want without reason for explanation. Director Vincenzo Natali is not a science fiction film maker alone but also carries certain cleverness which I noticed in film “Cube”. “Splice” is not a conventional shock show. It does have some of those but it has a dense plot in hands and seriously raises some questions beyond ourselves as the answers gets murky and muddled, Natali dumps the film into traditional demise. Such a shame.

Geeky couple Clyde (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) have opened the crazy doors into merging DNAs and creating new species. Why they create a new species? To churn out products for their funding corporate Newstead Pharma to have their glory medicinal miracle. Clyde and Elsa work themselves to death and they are good at it. They manage to create disgusting fleshy and blobby creatures Fred and Ginger. They are not the medical magic gone wrong story we are going to witness. When Clyde and Elsa propose the idea to merge human DNA into their newly formed species to unravel the medical utopia of a future, the boss woman (Simona Maicanescu) shuts the “splicing” project down demanding results. No more pet creation. Real product is the demand and the deadline will be sooner than they can think.

Elsa has a history, a family history, a crazy family history which we are not exposed to but enough to know to be scared. She keeps pushing the experiment, little by little and just has to nudge her companion Clyde to keep going. They work hard through days in seclusion from the team to combine a female DNA into the Fred/Ginger creature DNA. The resultant of these are unclear or not explained but where Vincenzo wants to take us is clear. The ethical, moral and the unexplainable values and stands we have to take in this story. It cannot be more unclear yet fascinating.

In “Mythbusters” TV series, I remember one of Adam Savage’s line “I reject reality and substitute my own” to explain his often playful ventures he does in the show. It applies to the disturbingly messed up Elsa. She knows the limits for this experiment and keeps on going convincing herself and Clyde on the way. First she asks for succeeding in the integration and storing of the DNA cells. Then when it is done, she wants to get it injected into Ovum to see whether they “actually” succeeded. When the growth is unusually fast, she is fine giving delivery and when the part human part something else comes out, she nurtures it like a mother. In all these events Clyde stands there letting it happen with very little protest.

“Splice” has to be credited for its intelligence in taking up this field to debate on the defined norms, philosophies, values and ethics. When people are commitment phobic and dare to even take the plunge in owning a pet, creating something which begins to develop emotions, interaction and affection takes it out of the science project. For Elsa it gets out of the science when the creature begins to respond to her coaxing motherly skills. Soon she names her Dren (Delphine ChanĂ©ac) and they begin to form a relationship which becomes creepy, scary and an end no one is going to like.

The party of interest in this film is Dren. She cannot speak even though she has a tongue. Her physique is different but sexy. She has an odd charm and springs the wacky nature of being a female. The changes she goes through in her body confuses her and she reacts to it. She gets a parenting with a hybrid (no pun intended) of a pet and a spoiled kid. Elsa dangerously gets close to this which in every step of it screams danger. Yet she takes it and the only member who can see it is Clyde and he stares and stands helpless succumbing to the overhauling success of decision making from Elsa.

The film then takes a dive into unknown territories which even it cannot understand. And that is a compliment. This is a realm which we cannot comprehend. The capability and the capacity of the power we could handle in putting out something totally non-existent in the nature is far more beyond than exposing the philosophical righteousness. This becomes about the responsibility in doing something of that caliber. Much like handling a super power energy source, this shakes the balance of today’s existing ecosystem. But maybe the new form will form an ecosystem of its own, though we humans will not be a part of it. That is the scary part the film stresses subtly.

“Splice” is unexpected in unraveling its story which is the best part about it. The scientists that are unimaginably intelligent, diligent and precise in their work are not the sharp tools when it comes to decisions. Elsa as an individual is a submissive psychotic woman while Clyde is simply a man. Elsa needs an emotional screwing while Clyde literally needs one. All works out in the worst way possible. Unfortunately for a film which makes the corporate talk about next phase, it does not take it to the next phase in being mature. It becomes the horror film where the creature attacks for no reason and soon it needs to be killed for the film to be ended.

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