Horror, Monsters, Romance, Science Fiction

The Fly (1986)

Comments Off on The Fly (1986) 10 September 2015

The Fly (1986)

20th Century Fox Studios
Theatrical Release Date: August 15, 1986
DVD Release Date: October 5, 2005
Director: David Cronenberg
Rated R

Review by Nick Schwab

“You’re afraid to dive into the plasma pool, aren’t you? You’re afraid to be destroyed and recreated, aren’t you? I’ll bet you think that you woke me up about the flesh, don’t you? But you only know society’s straight line about the flesh. You can’t penetrate beyond society’s sick, gray, fear of the flesh. Drink deep or taste not the plasma spring! You see what I’m saying? And I’m not just talking about sex and penetration, I’m talking about penetration beyond the veil of the flesh! A deep penetrating dive into the plasma pool!”

The David Cronenberg 1986 remake of The Fly is often cited as an AIDS metaphor, as well as an analysis of terminal illness and mortality. It can also work on a multitude of other levels– the most obvious is as a splatter horror film, or the type of film designed to make the viewer wretched and feeling dirty from its heavy onslaught of blood-and-guts effects. Despite being viewed as this and only this by a few critics who see only the shock-tactic glee in Jeff Goldblum’s transformation from a human to a 185-pound fly, those who look at the film with a more speculative eye may find that the narrative plays both serious and literate. The Fly works best as not only an examination of ageing, but also shows our race’s vulnerability to ever changing societal and scientific factors, theorizing that humans are no better evolved than when they were first derived from the apes.

The film chronicles Seth Brundle’s (Jeff Goldblum) experiment of conquering teleportation and his relationship with Ronnie (Geena Davis,) a journalist that documents the scientific study. During a drunken and depressed haze of jealousy in which Seth thinks that Ronnie is seeing her old boyfriend, Stathis Borans (John Getz,) Seth dangerously transports himself through the telapod. Yet, he does not come out quite right. He begins to change and this ailment begins to take over his body and mind.

“I was an insect who dreamt he was a man, but now the dream is over, and the insect is awake,” Seth dramatically baritones to Ronnie. The line creates an analogy that somewhere in the human heart and soul lays an insect. This insect is all that is still animal in the human: it is our Neanderthal and predatory instincts, it is human kind’s desires, both the psychological and physical need for affection. If only it were not for human natures penchant for both self-destruction, as well as the viscous cycle of survival of the fittest (a phrase both invented by man and taken to its greatest height by our own devices) then maybe Seth would not succumb to his illicit faults.

It also points back to the theory of devolution–a thought that instead of human kind evolving we have actually regressed, going back to our past instincts through our individualistic way of life, instead of societal. This aforementioned insect line concludes Seth’s knowingly far fetched hope about insect politics. Yet, be aware, it’s not a matter of actual politics, but rather a battle of inner wills, or the humanistic side of Seth fighting with the animal side. Simply, it is not a matter of what side will win, it’s a matter of when.

The narrative gets its most emotional credence when a pasty eyed Ronnie watches her lover slowly succumb to the disease that shows itself as a “bizarre form of cancer.” There is nothing positive or funny about the situation, but Seth tries to think of good things about his decay, while drawing away those who look at it negatively. For instance, he see’s the ability to walk on walls, acrobatic strength, and sexual endurance as a sort of mind-and-body evolution. Yet, as he begins to realize his youthful end even while playfully intoning, “I knew an old lady that swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die,” he soon wants nothing more than to see the ones he loved again, and to live on in his unborn child. This is a common fear of humans, not death, but through those around them dying thus making them realize their own mortality.

Such as pointed out by the director in the director’s commentary, some may also say the film is also an analogy of drug addiction and how addicts and their friends and family deal with it. In a scene where Seth looks in the mirror and soon later peels his fingernails off, is like that of an addicts inner want to get clean after staring at there reflection and seeing what they have become: a skinny, red-eyed, and fix-seeking mess. Ronnie then acts as a sort of spectator to this junkie’s life.

Whether it is a parable on sexually transmitted disease, ageing, or drugs, that is not the point. In fact, Cronenberg paints a bigger picture, but chooses not to answer it. This picture questions the morals of human beings and it questions our self-absorbed fiber of humans only taking care of our race with out giving much of a thought to other living beings, or even their own kind in many instances. In that way it predated Michael Moore’s film, Bowling for Columbine, a film that questioned American society and our use of firearms that contain the power to take the life of another, as if we were the thunderbolts of god. Yet, in The Fly the film questions humankind and asks us by our own inventions and emotions if we are indeed nothing more than an animal, and even if we may be the highest on the food chain, are we really any better than even a purely instinct-driven insect.

A life of an insect is nothing more than food and reproduction. In the opening of The Fly a bug-eyed Seth metaphorically hits on Ronnie with his invention and asks her to go back to his apartment (“I have an espresso machine…you know the coffee shop ones with the eagle on top.”) Ronnie then gives him the smarmy reply that she, “Can tell you don’t get out much.” Yet within moments, he does convince her to go to his apartment, (“It will change the world as we now it.”) After he shows her his new invention and soon later Seth realizes his mistake, telling her: “I’d never mean to tell this to a journalist.” This reply tells the audience that this brilliant scientist is just like everyone else, driven by his desires and needs from the onset. However, when Ronnie later falls for him it seems to be slightly out of pity. However, after love making, he finally gets an idea to transport animate matter (self-gratification in relation to having another sexual partner.)

When Seth transports himself through his telapod he feels purified and filtered. Seeming to walk around with a boastful smile on his lips, wanting another to feel the same way. This comment on the male’s role in relationships as something of rites of passage to adulthood when they get laid is also what makes the film like a more cynical coming-of-age story. This is seen in the concluding scenes where Stathis (the horny-scum who means well to Ronnie, yet has teenage hormonal aggression) faces off against the fully formed fly with his shotgun and is at first beaten. One has to think does the now-chastised Seth represent the evolution through reproduction and evolving, while Stathis is meant to be the unfit inferior?

Later in the film, Stathis (now without one foot and minus one arm) shoots the telapod, causing it to turn the fly into a fly-telapod-man creation, the audience is literally shown the only one who can stop the evolution is either by the male with a malformed seed or by the woman putting an end to life through abortion or abstinence.

In the end, the whole film centers around the meaning of self-serving and the destructive nature of humans. It tells of its character’s desire to be perfect, knowing society will never get to that level, but taking it out on those around him. This is shown point perfectly when Seth brings back to his apartment a young and trampy girl, and then after Seth sleeps with her, he wants her to be recreated in the telapod. The viewer is aware that humans, no matter how smart, or strong willed, do indeed seek their desire for a companion and use that companion for their own ends. By that logic, in all its dishonorable and sleazy glory is what makes humans what they really are, yet try so hard to hide.

Read More at the Internet Movie Database

Rated R

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