By Bradley Lane
With a last name like Cronenberg, there are bound to be high expectations for your career as a filmmaker. For the son of legendary body horror auteur David Cronenberg, it seemed like there would be no way for Brandon Cronenberg to break out of the shadow his father’s legacy cast on him. Especially since Brandon’s sensibilities aligned so closely with his father’s, exploring the limits of the human body and mind through stomach churning explorations of its frailty. However, in 2020 he finally broke out of that shadow with his original science fiction feature film Possessor.
Set in an alternate universe in 2008, Tasya Vos is an elite assassin that uses a groundbreaking secret technology to infiltrate other people’s minds and eliminate high-profile targets. However, this technology takes a psychological toll on Vos, and as a result she begins to not be able to separate her own personal life with that of the people she has inhabited. This blending of realities comes to a head when she is tasked with killing a powerful CEO by way of his soon-to-be stepson, Colin Tate. However, as Vos’s mental state deteriorates, Tate challenges her control of his body leading to a visually stunning and altogether harrowing exploration of violence, personal autonomy, and our modern relationship to work.
Cronenberg, like his father, is an ingenious aesthetician. The world of Possessor feels entirely unlike our own world, yet it is still fully realized and completely tactile. However, Brandon is much more comfortable taking the aesthetics in unexpected and visually titillating directions. His style is ostentatious and, in your face, with mile-a-minute pacing, which makes his sensibilities feel much more modern than the dry and methodical style of his father.
What makes these stylistic differences so special is that both father and son are tackling similar ideas but drawing differing conclusions about them. Possessor has a lot to say about how outside influences affect our selfhood. Whether it be a personality you adopt in the workplace to seem professional or an affect you adopt to seem respectable to family, these pieces of your self-expression eventually become you. These ideas play out in the most extreme and disturbing manner imaginable and force audiences to evaluate themselves critically after viewing.
While occasionally struggling to maintain a consistent balance of its myriad of high concept ideas and ambitions, Possessor is the work of a massively exciting new voice in filmmaking. To celebrate this film and the upcoming release of Cronenberg’s next film, Infinity Pool, Kan-Kan Cinema is rereleasing Possessor for just one week starting Jan. 20. Possessor is also available to stream on Hulu. – 4/5 stars