David Cronenberg is what you get when you fuse a brilliant filmmaker with a mad scientist.
The celebrated Canadian director is behind some of the most imaginative and ingenious science fiction films (Videodrome, Scanners, eXistenZ), the most exhilarating and nerve-wracking thrillers (History of Violence, Eastern Promises) and the most morbid and terrifying horror (The Fly, Shivers, The Dead Zone) to ever appear in cinema.
Accomplished at avant-garde productions as well as commercial blockbusters, David Cronenberg has established himself as a unique voice in cinematic history — but it wasn’t easy.
Under the umbrella of The Cronenberg Project, The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) invites you to journey to the depths of the sort of depravity that only a genius mind can muster, with their new exhibit, David Cronenberg: Evolution.
Accompanying the physical exhibit in Toronto, is an online version entitled David Cronenberg: Virtual Exhibit. This website is a major endeavor launched by TIFF, and it takes everything from the exhibit gallery and makes it available online. The David Cronenberg: Virtual Exhibition is part of the TIFF’s Higher Learning Digital Resource Hub, which is a free ongoing program that provides Canadian Post-Secondary students and faculty with resources on the subjects of film, television, video games and new media.
Cronenberg is credited with inventing the “Body Horror” genre, which explores the fear of body mutation, transformation and disease. “Disease is the love of two alien kinds of creatures for each other,” romanticizes Cronenberg in They Came from Within. His films delivers the message that atrophy and sickness is the natural equilibrium-seeking response to man’s attempts to artificially extend the limitations of our body and mortality through science.
“In his films, he deploys scientists, often in their most morally questionable forms, to posit speculative scenarios that undermine science’s exalted role,” explains the website that accompanies the virtual exhibit. The controversial nature of Cronenberg’s films meant that he was always locked in an uphill battle. Between micro-budgets and guerilla filming, to the attempts of politicians to censor his films, one thing is certain:Cronenberg has always made the films he wanted to make, not minding public attention or critical acclaim.
Through this virtual tour we can find rare behind the scenes footage including interviews with collaborating actors such as Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons, a comprehensive film timeline including rare pictures and video footage and a map of the filming locations in Toronto that Cronenberg used to make many of his films. The latter is a testament to Cronenberg’s deep connection with his home city of Toronto and his insistence to film many of his projects in Canada.
The visual representation of the films on the virtual tour are visceral and engaging. Themes that Cronenberg explores in his films are explained through a series of interviews, images and videos, weaving a narrative through his life’s work that shows that Cronenberg is a director that keeps reinventing himself while seeking to explore several existential questions.
Scholarship and descriptions of ‘Cronenbergian’ artifacts from his films appear on the virtual tour, as well as his lesser known directorial projects such as commercials and short films, can be found in their full versions on the virtual tour.
For any true film aficionado, Cronenberg‘s works are a must see. The vast universe of Cronenberg’s mindscape is available online in the most comprehensive and accessible way it has ever been presented.
David Cronenberg: Virtual Exhibition is accessible in English and in French and can be found at tiff.net/higherlearning. Alternatively, if you are planning to be in Toronto for the holidays, you can visit the physical exhibit at TIFF Bell Lightbox.