Dead Ringers (1988) - the story of twin gynecologists (both deliciously portrayed by Jeremy Irons) and their twisted relationship with an actress patient is a psychological modern classic from that 'freak' expert, David Cronenberg. As with his dark masterpiece, Crash (1997), Cronenberg explores the obsessive aspects of human nature and it's rocky relationship with the sense of control (or lack of). This is a frequently common theme throughout his filmography but ocassionally his films lack real substance as in the bizarrely fun but half-baked Videodrome (1983) and the vacant eXistenZ (1999). Here, he successfully manages the balance between 'freak' cinema and human cinema.
Confronted by a subject depicting twin brothers, one could be wary of lazy ying/yang characterisation and predictable freudian symbolism but Cronenberg defies such pitfalls and actually uses such stereotypes to his benefit, as he litters the film with typically playful sadistic dialogue (surely the use of words such as 'mutant' and 'deformed' are a knowing wink to himself), whilst Irons pushes the limit, making both characters individual yet cohesive and their transition and desperate situation most believable.
Jeremy Irons is not an actor who varies his appearance or voice too much from film-to-film so can occasionally appear a little repetitive but he thrives within the boundaries of darker material - he is an actor who is completely open to embracing the dark side of humanity and more importantly, without judging it. This is further demonstrated in Louis Malle's Damage (1992) and Adrian Lyne's Lolita (1998), and here he has never been better.
It can be exhilarating observing an individual cross social boundaries, as we are often reluctant to ever fully explore our own limits. Obviously, we do not aspire to lose our sanity or remain in such a state for an overly long period of time but it is an fascinating environment to observe and however voyeuristic, we and Cronenberg are simultaneously hypnotised, fearful and devilishly intrigued by viewing this transition to the verge of meltdown - a most human emotional response.
Dead Ringers is a powerful depiction of how one's environment can prevent them from developing relationships outside such artificially created perimeters, leading to an obsession of your distorted view of perfection and ultimately the inability to accept any other perception of reality - a wickedly dangerous state to embody.
Coming Up: Whilst Jeremy Irons does not seem to have anything firm in the pipeline cinema-wise, David Cronenberg (as it stands - his IMDB page seems to change weekly) is planning The Talking Cure (2011), which looks at the relationship between psychoanalysis pioneers, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and currently slated to star Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender - count me in!
Are you a fan of Dead Ringers, Jeremy Irons and/or David Cronenberg?
How will film history ultimately reflect upon David Cronenberg and his work?