Rape! Incest! Science! 

splice_magnum.jpg
Splice

Directed by Vincenzo Natali



"Was this ever about science?" one renegade researcher asks another in the middle of Splice. And, while looking back over this genetics-gone-mad-gone-cute-gone-mad-again movie, it's a fair question. In fairness, the film's first third is about science… sorta. But then it slips into an allegorical parenting dramedy, before ending as a Jeepers Creepers-like cast-attrition slasher. Along the way, it shoulders its way past the boundaries of Good Taste, bodaciously unafraid to pursue its reactionary allegory into the sorts of weird and disturbing places most studios fear to tread, including fathers fucking daughters and sons raping mothers.


But first, that biochemistry. Boyfriend-girlfriend team Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) do science: they zip through fast-motion montages, tipping beakers into test tubes before hitting "Enter" and waiting for a computer to figure it out. With ironic t-shirts and screw-the-establishment-that-feeds-us attitudes (which establish their iconoclastic hipness), they're renowned "Splicemasters extraordinaire," the subjects of a cover story in Wired, known for their breakthroughs in farm-animal medicine. But they're ready to sprinkle a little human DNA into the genetic hodgepodge that makes up the miraculous, phallic-breadloaf mini-monsters for which they're famous. Enough curing livestock diseases&emdash;let's cure diabetes!


Political climates, business concerns and "moral considerations," of course, tell them "no way, Joses!" but they push ahead anyway, and after a few hours (LOL!) they create a humanoid creature with a poison-tail that, when grown, will assume Natalie Portman's head and eyes as expressive as Amy Adams'. (She's actually played by Delphine Chanéac, in her American breakthrough.) Splice seems perched to give scientific hubris its comeuppance. It's clearly anti…well, no one ever says "stem cell," but that's the obvious subtext. Who's the monster in this monster movie: the genetically engineered deformity, or the rogue biochemists that begat it, playing fast and loose in God's domain?


Then a funny thing happens: Splice makes a radical tonal transition, reconfiguring itself as a movie about a couple, who were considering potential parenthood with great trepidation, living through a speedy trial run, thanks to the creature's conveniently accelerated aging. They face a series of challenges familiar to any new parent, like overcoming picky eating habits and coping with baby's first fever. In general, they learn to deal with its, er, her mercurial temperament. At least, that is, until she shows the first signs of puberty and accompanying adolescent rebellion, at which point the parents fly off the handle and Splice falls off the rails: mommy turns castrative; daddy, incestuous.

Splice suggests that the sort of unsanctioned research our heroes conducted leads to a total breakdown of normative morality, turning mothers into figurative clitorectomists and fathers into literal lovers. Clive, as the Woody Allen-ish adopted-daughter-fucker, says he forgot the difference between right and wrong because of, well, what they'd been doing; it's not in our DNA that you'll find the stuff that makes decent Christians out of us. (That the film's sensibilities are totally Catholic shouldn't come as a surprise once Guillermo del Toro's name turns up, as an executive producer, in the opening credits; everything he touches turns Catholic.) But director Natali, whose 1997 debut Cube also proffered some reactionary politics, has never been keen to dwell too long on such subtext: Splice quickly moves toward a marauding-monster conclusion. As the "parents" battle their "offspring" in the foggy-forest finale, their Grand Experiment draws to a close. The findings? These people are fucked up, for reasons that transcend their transgressions of scientific ethics. This is not, after all, a movie about science. For God's sake, it can't be.






Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Henry Stewart

  • The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

    Noirs classic and neo, melodrama, vampires, Buñuel, and Diane Keaton in the best outfits in the history of cinema.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

    The Beatles! Structuralism! Femmes Fatale! And so much more, in this week and weekend's rep cinema picks.
    • Jul 16, 2014
  • More »

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Feel Good?: Get On Up

    This long-gestating James Brown biopic is fun, but leaves you wanting more... something. Anything.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • Boyhood: Rich Hill

    This documentary about three teens in Missouri contributes to a great year for the coming-of-age film.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • Home for the Holidays: Happy Christmas

    Joe Swanberg's latest continues the director's successful graduation from mumblecore into slightly less mumbly indie dramedy.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 The L Magazine
Website powered by Foundation