We spoke with Brandon about creative impulses that demand to be dealt with, going with Eastern Bloc versus tropical vibes for his fictional resort, the practicality of an R cut, why Canadian genre films are so weird, and working with DGC Ontario creatives on this incredibly unique film.
Thematically, there are some similarities between Infinity Pool and your previous film, Possessor. They both deal with feeling like your body is not really your body, as well as this idea that if you have enough money, you can literally get away with murder. Why is this creatively rich territory for you, and why do you keep coming back to these themes in your work?
Brandon Cronenberg: It’s hard to articulate an answer. As I’m writing, I’m just impulsively following ideas that are interesting to me. It’s impulsive, more than anything. I think certain ideas just climb into your head when you’re working, and they insist that you deal with them somehow. It’s more that than a calculated thing.
Infinity Pool takes place in a very fully realized world that is very unlike other tropical vacation resorts. When we think of science fiction and technology like doubling, there’s a very futuristic look that most people probably have in mind. The Production Design in Infinity Pool is very different. It feels very cold and dirty and sort of Soviet. Your Production Designer Zosia MacKenzie is also Polish-Canadian, and you shot this film in Croatia and Hungary. Did you have some of these visuals in mind ahead of time, or did you collaborate with Zosia to create the look and feel?
Brandon Cronenberg: When I was writing, I had in mind this dream of an Eastern Bloc state or something. I just thought that it would be more interesting when we’re creating an entirely fictional country with these weird, magical realism elements than a tropical thing. Even though it’s sci-fi, it’s kind of absurd sci-fi rather than a predictive narrative about the future of cloning technology. That felt right to me. In terms of how we collaborated, a lot of Infinity Pool was shot in these fantastic locations in Hungary and Croatia. There was an amazing resort in Budapest and this great old power plant that was built in the Communist era. Zosia and I scouted these locations together, and we really spent a lot of time finding the best places. That was a great foundation to figure out all the ways that she could build into them. There was a bit of studio work done at the end, but a lot was her work in existing locations. We had assembled a textural palette through scouting, and then she did really fantastic work fusing and contrasting the stuff from Hungary and Croatia and inside the resort and surrounding country.
During Post Production there was a process to edit the film down to get an R rating rather than NC-17 so it could play in theatres. What is the editing process like when you do have to go back and make those revisions without betraying the integrity of the film? How do you decide what needs to go first and what needs to stay?
Brandon Cronenberg: Well, the honest answer is, I start by making the version of the film that I want, and I’m very lucky to be able to do that and have Director’s Cut. James [Vanderwater, DGC Ontario Picture Editor] and I just started by making what we thought was the best possible version of the film. The problem is, of course, that it’s usually specific to the U.S. theatrical release, although actually, in this case, it was also an issue for Canada. There are just certain limitations ratings-wise if you want to get any kind of proper release in the U.S., you have to tweak the film somewhat. They aren’t really changes that you’re deciding on, but ultimately, you have to get through them because it’s a bit of a death sentence to just stick with an NC-17 rating. In this case, the two versions of the film are still the same film, and I would love people to go see it in theatres. It is the same film; it’s not a substantially different experience. But what you cut in that context is really defined by the rating board that you’re dealing with. I owe an R cut as well as my Director’s cut, and I understand why that is, and I would have done it anyway.
During the Q&A after the Toronto premiere, you said that you chose your cast and crew because you’re excited about their work. You brought some Ontario crew over to Europe for Infinity Pool and worked with an Ontario Post Production team. What excites you about the work coming out of Ontario and Canada, especially genre films like yours?
Brandon Cronenberg: It comes down to the relationships. These are often people I’ve worked with on a number of films. I have a core team of Canadian collaborators who are hugely exciting to me. You develop a kind of film family with people you trust and build on those relationships creatively. Obviously, Canada has a very long and interesting tradition of genre film that I feel partly comes from the fact that we aren’t working in the context of a traditional American studio system. When you want to make a big Hollywood film, but you don’t have the money or the stars, then you just have this sort of middle-ground film. Those big films live or die based on their cast and their budget. You need $200 million and the biggest actors in the world to do The Avengers or something like that. What we have is an industry that exists in opposition to that due to necessity, and it pushes us into interesting territory. It’s a sort of scrappier indie industry, and in some ways, it limits what we can do, but I think it pushes us to embrace interesting filmmaking historically.
See the uncut version of Infinity Pool in select Canadian theatres on February 24, or stream it across all digital platforms on February 28.