Cosmopolis: A Study in Capitalism

Cosmopolis – 2012 – dir. David Cronenberg



David Cronenberg makes weird films. There is no doubt about that. Prior to this I had only seen A Dangerous Method from 2011 and A History of Violence from 2005 neither of which are all that weird in and of themselves. His 2012 film though, Cosmopolis, is a violent, carnal, intellectual film that almost recalls films like A Clockwork Orange or Cloud Atlas where the language takes a few minutes to understand because it feels as though they have their own dialect. This is a difficult film, but if you enjoy thematic studies you should enjoy it.

This is the story of a stock trader going to get a haircut. Throughout the day (he doesn’t arrive until nightfall) this trader (played by Robert Pattinson) is sitting in his limo taking various meetings (including a prostate exam) occasionally leaving to either see his wife or his mistress. Outside there are protesters demonstrating against capitalism and using giant rats to burn the 1% in effigy.  Each meeting we see gives us something philosophical to think about from real world concerns about wealth and power to the potential frivolity of image and presentation. This onslaught of messages is overwhelming and this film could definitely benefit from multiple viewings.

Obviously what’s been described above could come off as preachy and boring (a complaint many have had) however, Cronenberg’s direction and the performances of four of the actors save this film from that fate. Cronenberg made an art film with very careful direction. Nothing was done arbitrarily and that benefits the film greatly. He was also able to get some fantastic performances. Robert Pattinson shows that he has real acting chops with this cold, almost sociopathic, portrayal of a pure capitalist. Samantha Morton and Sarah Gadon play Pattinson’s advisor and wife respectively with equally cold performances. The carnal tension between each of them and Pattinson is palpable and chilling. Finally we have Paul Giamatti who plays Pattinson’s would be murderer with probably the only real passion shown in the film. He is angry and looks and feels lost within the capitalist system. I wish that 2012 had been a worse year in film because these all rank around #10 or #11 in their respective acting categories for the year.

This is a weird film. Don’t go into this expecting to enjoy it and you might just come out with a sense of catharsis. Think of the film as a study of systems rather than the story of a character and let the film hit you with all it has. 


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