SPLICE. Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley and Delphine Cheneac. Directed by Vincenzo Natali. 104 minutes. Rated MA (strong violence and sex scenes).
The Frankenstein myth.
It must be a deeply archetypal story for it to have been expressed in so many different forms, from the Golem to the Frankenstein monster of Mary Shelley, let alone all the film versions and variations, of which Splice is a 21st century example. Once again, we have scientists who may be motivated by benefiting the human race with their experiments but are not initially aware of their hubris, of their 'playing God' in wanting to create life. And, then, when they have pronounced those mythical words, 'It's alive', and delighted in the wonder of creation, the limitations of their creature and their own personal limitations wreak destruction and the creation has to be terminated. Doubtless, there will be many more dramatisations of the story.
Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are a couple employed by a pharmaceutical company who seem to have a great deal of independence and lack of supervision or accountability. While trying to find genes for curing diseases, they do splicing tests, with animal tissues and bring into existence Fred and Ginger, artificial creatures, who seem to be compatible and can mate – but, ultimately, they provide more than a surprise in their development which leads to twists in the plot.
What if there were splicing of animal and human DNA? Step by step, Elsa takes command and has her way with the splicing and the cultivations of the creature. Clive hesitates but does not stop the process. The creature that emerges has animal characteristics but has more presentable attributes of feminine beauty. If you think you can see where this is going, you are more alert than Clive and Elsa, but you would be right.
Giving the creature the name, Dren, Elsa finds a substitute child figure and when Dren observes Clive and Elsa together, she makes a huge leap forward in psychosexual development which we know will turn out badly.
With pressures from the company and the threat of the closing down of their labs, Clive and Elsa decide to present Fred and Ginger (not Dren) to the investors and board members. Here the film moves from science-fiction conventions to some horror conventions and to a conclusion that won't be alien to science-fiction fans – as well as to a mysterious future which could easily lead to Splice 2.
Filmed in chill colours, the film has a coldly pervasive atmosphere. It is old-fashioned B movie material given A production and cast. And, as with all the Frankenstein variations, it is sceptical of this kind of scientific progress and even more sceptical of the values and behaviour of the scientists.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released: August 19, 2010.