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Sklar, J. Sabbadini, A. (2008). David Cronenberg's Spider: Between Confusion and Fragmentation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(2):427-432.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(2):427-432

Films

David Cronenberg's Spider: Between Confusion and Fragmentation

Jonathan Sklar and Andrea Sabbadini

David Cronenberg, the Canadian director of Spider (2002), is one of the main exponents of the science-fictional ‘body horror’ genre of films. ‘Cronenberg's subject’, David Thomson writes, ‘is the intensity of human frailty and decay: in short, the body and its many accelerated mutations, whether out of disease, anger, dread, or hope’ (2002, pp. 189-90). Such films, which explore people's fears of bodily transformations and infections, have a special appeal to adolescents because they reflect their anxieties about the anatomical and physiological changes they experience in the course of growing up (Campbell, 2003).

Spider, however, is different from all other Cronenberg's movies. In fact, it is not (or, at least, not literally) a ‘horror’ movie at all. Spider is not about the uncanny corruptions of living bodies (like Shivers, 1975) or about a human being becoming an animal (like the remake of The Fly, 1986), but about the pathology of the mind and, in particular, its potential for extreme confusion and fragmentation.

As a result of the creative combination of Cronenberg's directorial skills, Patrick McGrath's screenplay from his own novel (McGrath, 1990), Peter Suschitzky's understated photography of working-class London cityscapes, and Ralph Fiennes's sensitive performance in the title role, Spider stands out as a most darkly beautiful, moving, as well as disturbing, filmic representation of severe psychopathology.

The protagonist, Dennis Cleg, known as ‘Spider’, is a catatonic schizophrenic man just released from a mental institution where he has been incarcerated for many years as a matricide.

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