the fresh films reviews

S I N C E   1 9 9 7



Crash (1996)

David Cronenberg
100 minutes
David Cronenberg
Screenwriter (based on the novel by J. G. Ballard):
David Cronenberg

Cast includes:

James Ballard James Spader
Dr Helen Remington Holly Hunter
Vaughan Elias Koteas
Mrs. Catherine Ballard Deborah Kara Unger
Gabrielle Rosanna Arquette



The territory was classic Cronenberg in many ways: mutilation, abnormality and carnal knowledge (with emphasis on 'carnal' rather than 'knowledge'), and Crash became an instant talking-point when it opened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival to highly diversified reviews. The critics were divided and many national ratings boards were infuriated. The story itself was simple enough: A young and highly sexualized man named James Ballard causes a car accident which leaves the driver of the other vehicle dead, and himself and the dead man's passenger and wife seriously injured. After being introduced to the peculiar now widow and her mysterious acquaintance Vaughan, Ballard and his wildly debauched wife find themselves strangely aroused by anything related to the accident, other accidents, other cars, or other people having been in or wanting to be in automobile accidents.

Like the ratings boards, I was appalled when I as a fairly inexperienced film critic (and young man) watched this film back in November 1996. Despite considering myself a burgeoning Cronenberg fan (having been very impressed with films such as The Dead Zone and The Fly), I felt Crash presented something into which I wasn't invited, about people I definitely could not relate to. I was hoping that seeing the film with some 15 years extra worth of reviewing and life experience on my back, the film would speak to me in a different way; that both it and I would be more open, more fascinated by each other. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Crash remains as unrelenting, soulless and, I'm sorry to say, stupid today as it was back when it was released. I'm sure author J. G. Ballard felt satisfied by the turmoil he created with the release of his 1973 novel upon which this film is based, but if presenting a paraphilia as narrow as this is to be interesting in and of itself, it requires more open-mindedness and discussion than what Cronenberg is able (or willing) to conjure here. About the book's quality on this matter I cannot comment, since I haven't read it and most certainly never will.

The ratings boards mostly condemned the film's one-sided focus on deviant sexual relations, and while that at any rate makes the film rather one-note, it needn't have been a problem had this focus been relevant or at least presented such as to invite people unfamiliar with the world Crash presents (ie. 99.99% of humankind) to understand or emphasize with it and perhaps even become a little tickled by it. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. I consider myself way above averagely unprejudiced and have time and time again found myself fascinated by many of the other, let's say, eccentric worlds which Cronenberg has explored, but Crash, for all its controversy, has almost nothing to offer. It is flat, unnecessary and boring. I thought I was right after my first viewing; I know I'm right this time.

Rereview: Copyright 14.5.2012 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review:
Copyright 5.11.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang