Dropout UK @ Splice Press Screening, Soho Screening Rooms
We Head Down To Screening Of Vincenzo Natalis Ethically Conflicted Thriller
It’s rather surprising, and ultimately disappointing, that a film with the curiosity to probe such a topical quandary as genetic science should end by abandoning the intriguing ethical conflictions before any stance can be taken. Director Vincenzo Natali has constructed a vapid thriller in which the most interesting aspects of the narrative are almost always exploited in ways that develop the cynically carnal plot. More wide-ranging philosophical considerations are negated by the domestic developments of the human characters, and the writers’ inability to forego opportunities for inexplicably graphic set-pieces.
However, the relationship of couple Clive and Elsa, conjured by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, is certainly not always tedious. Indeed, some of the film’s most engaging moments stem from their fluctuating approaches to the creature they have created. Unfortunately, it is tacitly assumed that the being they have formed exists in this story, primarily, to examine the compatibility of Clive and Elsa, especially in light of her reluctance to give birth conventionally, and not to interrogate human approaches to cloning technologies.
The film begins not unusually, as the stellar efforts of Clive, Elsa et al. are being undermined by their employer, a genetic corporation (the face of which is stern European Joan Chorot, played by Simona Maicanescu) that does not possess the required patience to allow time for further experimentation. It wishes to bring the hitherto findings to market as soon as possible. Reacting against this, Elsa sneakily augments their current genetic concoction with human DNA, and it is clear from this moment that she is in way over her head.
Scientific nuances are pretty much absent. In fact, the scientist’s most sustained and successful period of work is sped up and presented as a montage – this is not a film that assumes the audience wishes to engage with intellectual processes. Either that or the film’s entire concept is so improbable and far-fetched that it requires a leap of faith – and a liberal airbrushing of the biological methodology – for the story to continue.
From this point, Elsa attempts to contain and care for the creature she must also conceal. Named Dren, after it misreads a word on Elsa’s shirt, the freakish new child of our protagonists strains her creators’ relationship. Elsa’s maternal instincts emerge as prominent, while Adrien Brody is left to cower and fret as the concerned moralist, occasionally making verbal already obvious themes – ‘do you think it is in pain?’
At first a CGI figure, Dren grows to the point where she is played by two actresses (Abigail Chu and Delphine Chaneac). As well as evolving unexpected appendages (wings!) at rather convenient moments, she also develops physically desirable features that allow her to partake in the most outrageous cinematic sexual encounter since James Cameron treated us to his decidedly blue coital experience in Avatar last year.
What’s most unforgivable about Splice is its willingness to conclude its drama in such a hackneyed fashion. Despite the limitations of the first sixty minutes of Natali’s drama, you hope that the denouement will allow for a revision of what has preceded it. But the finale is instead the culmination of a very misjudged story.
Dren is a fascinating invention, but her sense of self is often overlooked, and the awe she does inspire is misplaced. An investigation into such an improbable and unprecedented existence would have undoubtedly proved fruitful. Instead, the character is little more than a horror trope. A sequel, which would of course rely upon Splice’s financial success, but is also heavily implied, would be advised to accept the sophistication of the scientific realm it has entered, or find an alternative way of thrilling and horrifying cinemagoers.