videodrome (david cronenberg, 1983)

The full movie is here:

(or was…)

Archival interview with David Cronenberg from Bombsite (1986)

Bette Gordon (BG) Are your nightmares like your movies? Do you actually see your movie images in your dreams?

David Cronenberg (DC) Rarely. My images come out of the process of making film. I do really think that movies work on the level of dream logic. However realistic or narrative they might like to think they are, they are dreamlike.

BG You, as a director, have an incredible ability to tap into the unconscious.

DC I was once on a talk show with a psychiatrist who worked at the Clark Institute with criminals. He had seen my film, Videodrome and said to me, “I’m almost afraid to be sitting here next to you.” He was totally mystified as to how I could empathize with those states of mind and he obviously, could not. It is mostly intuitive with me. One of the reasons I make a movie is that I’m then in a position where I have to analyze and I enjoy that process.

BG In They Came from Within there was a line of dialogue—”Man thinks too much, he’s lost touch with the body, with instincts. Too much brain and not enough guts.” Do you think the mind is stronger than the body?

DC No. I think the quote is particular to that film. What interests me is the mind/body schism.

BG What do you mean by mind/body schism?

DC I think the mind grows out of the body. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t see the mind or the spirit or the soul continuing after our body dies. The mind and body are completely dependent and interrelated. The mind is somehow organic and physical. It’s only our perception and our culture that keeps them separate.

BG What about the mind creating its own monsters in a sense, that the monster comes from within the mind. Like in Dead Ringers for example, or in Videodrome where it’s the mind that is completely in charge of the body.

DC In as much as the mind is ever in charge of anything. I don’t think it is always in control.

BG Or in Scanners where through mind control, you can . . .

DC Affect the body. But you see, I think everybody does that. I don’t think it’s just Western culture, other cultures even accentuate it more by saying the body’s nothing; it’s only temporary and the mind and the spirit are eternal. I think that’s very destructive. It’s not true. All philosophical, metaphysical and religious forces should be concentrating on trying to form a perception and reality for ourselves that integrates the two. And that would include coming to terms with death as a physical event rather than trying to evade it.

BG So how would you come to terms with death?

DC There’s a Japanese religion that thinks of all of life as a preparation for death, which to the Western mind seems like a very morbid approach to life. But if you think of death as a true end of something, of a process, it makes perfect sense. There we get into the old idea of Western culture being death denying, but I actually think Eastern culture is too. Because they try to trivialize death as being not important.

BG So it falls somewhere between the two as being very important and not important at all.

DC One of the main subjects of all of my films is exactly that. In Dead Ringers you get a body split into two (the twins) with basically, one mind. Just doing that is like an experiment in a lab—which all my movies really are. I set out to see how they work, to illuminate something for myself by doing these experiments.

Videodrome – with James Woods and Debbie Harry

BG There is something about the medical profession in all of your films.

DC Scientists and doctors to me, are at the leading edge of what all human beings do all of the time; which is to change, everything. We’ve never been satisfied with what we’re given. We don’t accept the earth as a given. We change our body chemistry, our physiology, our biology, our biochemistry. We clear the forest, we build our own environment, we climate control it . . . And, the interface between that impulse and the human body often is doctors, biologists, and biochemists.

BG Were you a biochemist?

DC I did go into biochemistry at the University of Toronto. But when I came face to face with what science required, I realized that my temperament was much more suited to some form of art; writing or whatever. I didn’t think of film at the time. I found I would prefer to invent my own science rather than spend two years with rats in a lab getting results.

BG There’s an ambivalence for the medical/science profession in all of your films. You don’t really have villains in the film, nobody’s quite evil . . .

DC That’s right. It is ambivalence. Because I think that they’re heroic even when they’re crazed. I think that being crazed and obsessed is part of being heroic. You don’t get one without the other. Ambition is something else. It’s not ambition in the material sense. My characters are obsessed with discovery and that does excite me and I do identify with that. A good creative scientist is as good as a good creative artist. No question in my mind.

BG What is your notion of the hero? You said your characters are heroic even when they are crazed.

DC Yes, maybe even especially because they’re crazed. I’m obviously drawn to people as main characters who are not embedded so completely in their culture that they can’t see any . . . a visionary’s process . . . people who are jarred into being outside. Continue reading