Review by: Simon Bell | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew interviews; Trailers.
WRETCHED. Grave. Extreme and concentrated. This is definitely
the work of the worlds favourite miserablist and weirdo
David Cronenberg: The man who gave us a murdering virtual-reality
game in eXistenZ (1999), brain-damaging TV transmissions in Videodrome
(1983) and identical twin gynaecological doctors who like a smidgen
of scalpel with their obsessive sex in Dead Ringers (1988).
Here we have Dennis Clegg, a man in his thirties, just out of
an institution where hes been unsuccessfully treated for
acute schizophrenia throughout his entire teens and adulthood.
Nicknamed Spider by his adoring (and adored-in-oedipal-proportion)
mother, Dennis has harboured a long fixation with webs and all
We dont find out the root cause of his illness until the
end, but we know hes never recovered and it seems pretty
obvious hes slowly losing any remaining grip on reality
We watch as his life spent scrapping round the grim halfway house
for the mentally ill where he lives becomes a neurotic journey
back into the profound trauma of his childhood. (The grubby East
End world he inhabits looks so dank you can smell the damp, mould
Back there in them days, abusive Dad (Gabriel Byrne, Irish and
grumpy as usual) spends most of his time chatting up prostitutes
down the local over a pint before coming home to scare the missus
(Miranda Richardson, in one of her best performances).
Ralph Fiennes gives a painstaking shot at the central role. Hes
all nicotine-stained fingers and black, crooked teeth. Dressed
in a coat you wouldnt give a mangy dog, hes as intense
as youd expect. But his incoherent mumbling and faltering
stammers may seem a bit much for even his most ardent fan. Think
Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot (1989) and youll have a
fair idea of how scrutinising Fiennes here just reminds you of
an actor being an actor: Its too crafted and stagey.
Never mind, though, because Richardson - in the triple role of
his mother, a prostitute and a landlady - is terrific. Shes
directed well, of course, as are the sets. They conjure images
that will live long in the mind whether you want them too or not.