Dead Ringers – David Cronenberg - Without a doubt, by far the best Cronenberg film I have seen! Frighteningly (and, you’d imagine/hope, loosely) based on the true story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus. The film tells of identical twins that become pioneering gynecologists. Through an unhealthy and unnerving sibling relationship and spiraling drug addiction they gradually drive each other into the delusions and danger of a mutually infectious madness. The story was also the basis for Peter Greenaway’s film A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), an earlier adaptation than Croneneberg’s 1988 film.
Granted, if I had known the unlikely premise for this film before watching, I may have been less keen to embark on a casual Friday night viewing session. Gynecology, madness, death, mutant women, and psychosis matched with unsettling themes of sex, incest, maternity and a disturbingly intense vision of love, hardly constitute ‘casual viewing’. Interestingly, for a film of such potent and horrific factors it is deceptively restrained on actual, seen body horror. The only real moment of ‘gore’ or unsettling physical imagery is witnessed in a dream sequence that reveals the nightmarishly flesh mutating exaggeration of ‘Siamese’.
The unforgettable power of the film’s central, divided, performance delivers one of the most unnerving and genuinely committed screen performances I have ever seen. Jeremy Irons plays both brothers, managing to lend each character a wealth of believable depth and nuance, which subsequently manages to persuasively immerse the viewer in what could so easily have been an absurd and laughable narrative. Instead, with the aid of this jaw dropping performance, Cronenberg crafts a meditation upon deeply human fears and desires through a wince inducing drama of medical madness, probing intimacy and perhaps the best executed realization of Cronenberg’s characteristic struggle between mind and body imaginable. Dead Ringers is an inspiringly unique horror that gathers an accumulative force far beyond any genre tropes. 9.5/10