Sometimes there are movies that are just too strange to describe…
Splice is… weird
That’s probably the best way to describe the movie. It rarely happens that while watching a movie you are experiencing fear, uncertainty, revolt, disgust, uncertainty, affection and on top of that some hilarous laughter.
The premise of the story is that two scientists manage a big leap forward in the field of biology (in a neurologic research lab which forms the acronym NERD – congratulations to the person in the marketing team who came up with that company name).
The couple played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley create a new life form and aside from the fact that they did this without permission of their superiors the big ethical question questions arise: are we allowed to “play gods”, is this lifeform just an experiment or is it a person just like every other human being?
If you now think you know how this movie plays out, be prepared. After so many predictable movies this year it was refreshing to again sit down in the theatre and not know how the story will play out.
I was expecting the E.T./Alf approach – meaning scientists create a life form then they have to hide it because the evil government will try to cut the thing open and experiment on it.
A friend of mine expected a non-stop horror thriller after the first few minutes.
We were both right and at the same time totally wrong. Just like the genetic experiment in this film goes through many stages of its lifecycle, the movie itself changes pace, theme and motivation all the time. It is as if the whole story is mutating from suspense to fully fleshed out horror movie to drama to very odd comedy (not in this order), therefore one can probably predict the next 5-10 minutes but that’s about it.
Antagonists change, the story reverts back to the initial antagonist. Even though the two leading actors make some choices that could get them nominated for the dumbest-scientist-alive-award their changing motivations are never forced, feel integral to the story and I never mind that sometimes their motifs changed 180° – in a situation this unique and new it is very possible for humans to change their opinions like Michael Bay changes lead actresses.
But despite the many changes the movie never loses focus, plotlines don’t fall into oblivion and come back whenever your focus is distracted with something else.
It’s actually a very good way to both keep us surprised but never let us get the idea that the makers are just making everything up as we go along.
So – is this movie just weird or actually good?
Let me put it this way – it is not a movie that fares well with mainstream audiences.
I had a lot of laughs during this movie at some very freaky/unintentionally funny scenes and there are parts in this movie so disturbing it makes the internet look like a school’s playground.
The reactions of the whole theatre (or let’s say the other ten people behind me and my friends) were priceless and it’s a pitty that this movie is fading away from Austrian cinemas way too quickly. So to anyone who won’t have the pleasure of watching this strange work of art in a public place, I’ll give you an impression what people said at certain scenes:
Hehe… what’s up with him he looks as if…
What’s now is he gonna… lol…
What… no he’s really….
Yikes… no… oh my god!
You will know what scene I’m talking about when you are watching the movie.
You thought a certain scene in Avatar was weird?
Once more I have to salute the movie for not taking shortcuts. Usually any relationship to a nonhuman person is a pretty weird thing, unless the designer sexualizes the alien lifeform.
It is not uncomfortable that Superman is in a relationship with Loise Lane even though he’s technically a 100% different life organism.
The same goes for any kind of fairies, elves and all that fantasy/sci-fi stuff.
And if you don’t go the Superman route and try to portray an interspecies lust/lovestory then sexualising the unfamiliar can go a long way. We are more willing to accept a relationship between things that look human than a man trying to have sex with a cockroach – probably because no matter how intellectual we are, we are still a very prejudiced and superficial lot.
James Cameron’s Avatar (as redlettermedia has perfectly pointed out) does the same sexualisation and if you just compare the Na’vi to Dren from Splice you’ll see which relationship is easier to sell to the audience:
Selling the likeability of Dren is way tougher since she doesn’t look “right”. Sure at first glance she might pass as a human (if you don’t mind her weird legs and tail) but there is something in the creature’s design that makes us feel uncertain. Yet Splice is a movie that manages to sell this character without it ever talking a word of English.
A lot of credit has to be given to the lead actors who maintain the story and are the ones acting on behalf of human in this philosophical situation. But also the screenplay of Splice is structured satisfyingly enough so that the conflicts never seem absurd no matter how much it turns and twists the theme and motivation of this story.
There is much to find in this movie about the responsibility of biological science in the not too distant future, about the way we view life and most importantly the question for life’s “justification”.
Is Dren just a formation of cells or does is it the same sentient being as we are? Or on the other side, are we actually anything special or just another conglomerate of cells that work together?
The movie doesn’t offer a direct explanation – how could one answer such a fundamental question in under 2 hour? – it merely shows us some of the sides and asks us to ponder about these questions.
Just writing this review made this movie grow onto me even more and even if many parts were revolting and unsettling, I guess I’ll give the DVD another try because in a year where movies are fighting to be more generic than their competitors Splice is bold enough to be both uncontroversial and unique.
Rating and Moviequation:
P.S.: the review about Avatar’s sexualization I mentioned can be found here
The creature design is addressed at around 6:29 but the entire review is totally worth one’s time.