This new Film is a hopeful outlook on Environmental nihilism

Maybe it’s not what you were expecting.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Jun 25, 2022

David Cronenberg‘s new film Crimes of the Future is a weirdly utopic vision of the next phase of human evolution, where machines help you eat and a new genetic mutation makes it so that humans of the future can produce new organs. Although the dreamy mood piece from Cronenberg is considerably sweeter than anticipated, it is not as gruesome and gory as some would have hoped.


The release coincides with a politically unstable environment where women’s reproductive rights are being debated. And though abortion may be counterintuitive for a story that is essentially about letting nature run its course, Cronenberg’s latest installation deals with the futility of policing the human body with principles that don’t necessarily reflect the times we live in.


Though Crimes of the Future may not be for the faint of heart, it definitely sheds some light on a potential new way of perceiving the environmental crisis and “end of the world” nihilism we’re experiencing.


A young child is seen playing on the rocky shoreline near his home in the opening scene of the movie, with a capsized cruise ship visible in the background. It is an appropriately grim nod to a world gone awry; a planet so devastated by unnamed (but probably climate-related) tragedies that the only individuals who can tolerate it and survive are those who have evolved past the capacity for pain or pleasure.


As we may deduce from the fact that the same young boy was able to chew up a plastic can, some of the characters have also changed and evolved in other ways. In Cronenberg’s imagined future world, we are ushered into the age of Accelerated Evolution Syndrome, where people are developing new organs and behaviors that the government created a National Organ Registry to keep track of them all.


Crimes of the Future definitely follows the signature style of Cronenberg to the core, down to the weird machinery, the characters, and the slogans (“surgery is the new sex”). This bizarre and oddly optimistic meditation on the macro-relationship between organic life and manufactured matter (or its residue like microplastics) weaves into his oeuvre but definitely pushes beyond it.


The movie opens up to you once you embrace it as more of a dense mood than a thin murder-mystery about the future of the human race. At its core, the idea of customized bodies that can’t feel pain is really a laboratory for Cronenberg to riff on various permutations of a theme. It is presenting us with the possibility of a future where microplastics are used as our diet and performance art is related to survival.


In the film’s ultra numb world, people are so desperate to feel something, and the numerous ways they look for sensation and brand new definitions of beauty, both individually and collectively, are abound.


But ultimately, the film is a hopeful outlook on environmental nihilism—one that hasn’t really been presented before. So there is something to be said about a new way of looking at the future of humanity.


In other related reading, read about ​​the environmental damage caused by cryptocurrency mining.


Photo via Nikos Nikolopoulos, Serendipity Point Films