Newest Review: ... a bit too short on action and long on boring psychological bits. There is just one extra with the DVD - a theatrical trailer. I really... more
Dead Ringers (DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
Dead Ringers (DVD)
Advantages: Stylish, Jeremy Irons
Disadvantages: Not everyone's cup of tea
Life for the Mantles becomes increasingly complicated and dangerous though when Beverly falls in love with an attractive new patient they are both seeing - troubled actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold) - and feels like this is one thing he doesn't actually want to share with his controlling brother anymore. As the two twins are completely interconnected, almost like one person in two bodies, the introduction of Claire - and Beverly's very strong feelings for her - into their ordered lives induces severe psychological strain that threatens to unbalance their relationship, sanity and everything they've worked for. Not only has Claire now replaced Elliot as the most important person in Beverly's life, she also leaves him with an escalating addiction to drugs, two acts that will have terrible consequences. The Mantles are all but Siamese twins in different bodies. Could they survive a separation?
After winning praise for his gore laden and inventive reworking of The Fly in 1986, cult director David Cronenberg followed it up in 1988 with an even better film here but one that nonetheless slipped under the radar slightly with its absence of straight ahead horror, special effects and monsters. Cronenberg's usual themes - the mind-body divide, physical decline, virus invasions and the social landscape - still survive in Dead Ringers but just in slightly different forms. Here Geneviève Bujold's Claire is the virus, slowly wreaking havoc on the sterile and controlled world and harmony of the two brothers. Dead Ringers is a cold, austere and thoroughly absorbing psychological thriller about the nature of identity and empathy with an incredibly skilful dual performance by Jeremy Irons as the two deeply troubled twins. It develops at its own unhurried pace and doesn't resort to cheap shocks - two approaches that reap dividends. Dead Ringers also looks wonderfully elegant and chilly and is shot in a clinical, detached manner that creates a refined and slightly ominous atmosphere. It benefits a great deal from Peter Suschitzky's cinematography and Carol Spier's sleek and metallic production design.
Women are aliens to the Mantles, a prologue of the twins as boys aptly illustrating their strange sense of both themselves and other people. "They're so different from us." Despite their extensive medical expertise, the Mantles don't really understand people or least of all emotions, somehow believing that someone can be studied from the inside rather than assessed as a living being. "I've often thought that there should be beauty contests for the insides of bodies," muses Elliot. This urge to understand women has obviously led to them becoming gynaecologists - a logical idea in the skewed world of the Mantles. The Mantle twins appear relatively seamlessly together onscreen through the visual effects and Irons gives each a distinct and nuanced personality. You come to accept that these really are two identical twins and seperate characters that we are watching interacting together and the relationship between the brothers is always engrossing and intelligently conveyed.
Elliot is the more charming, morally dubious one and more in charge. He knows the danger that Claire brings but the innocent Beverly is more vulnerable - this triangle eventually sending him over the edge through a misunderstanding into depression and drug abuse. "And tomorrow, we'll take some Percodan just because it's Saturday." Dead Ringers lacks the violence and blood of earlier Cronenberg films with the horror coming here from the gradual decline of one of the brothers and the effect this has on them as a whole. The successful elements of drama and the superior performances make Dead Ringers one of Cronenberg's most accomplished and impressive films. There is a memorable scene in particular where the Mantles eat ice-cream and drink fizzy pop together, somehow sliding back into childhood as their deterioration seems to be progressing. The film becomes more claustrophobic at times as the brothers become more mentally fragile and retreat back into themselves. "Beverly and I just have to get synchronized. Once we're synchronized, it'll be easy." Jeremy Irons deserves a lot of credit in any discussion of Dead Ringers for his compelling performance as the Mantle twins.
Despite the lack of gore and blood, Cronenberg's more grotesque inclinations do flicker here occasionally as the delusion stricken Beverly starts to imagine mutant women with gynaecological problems and has metallurgist Anders Wolleck (Stephen Lack) design a strange set of medical instruments for him. "There's nothing the matter with the instrument, it's the body. The woman's body is all wrong!" The scenes set in the Mantle's clinic are strikingly done with the bright red medical gowns throwing vivid colour in the restrained look and atmosphere of the film and the elaborate hoods giving the scenes a strange, anachronistic feel. Although the film seems to be slowly building to some gory medical examination of some sort it never really arrives and Cronenberg, perhaps wisely, keeps the blood off the screen for the most part here to focus more powerfully on the troubled relationship between the Mantle twins as they threaten to drift apart. Beverly's hallucinations led to some vivid dream/nightmare sequences and Cronenberg maintains a vague ambiguous quality as to what is and is not real - like the disconcertingly medieval looking gynaecological tools he has designed by the metallurgist. On the whole I like Dead Ringers a great deal and, although it sounds rather grim, it's an incredibly absorbing and very stylish drama that must rank high on any list of David Cronenberg's best films.
Summary: Worth a look