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Customer Review

on 25 July 2003
Cronenberg's psychological drama about a schizophrenic trying to reconstruct an awful chapter of his childhood is an intriguing exploration of the experience of insanity. Rather like "A Beautiful Mind", the director makes us see the world through the eyes of the protagonist. Photographed with nightmarish composition, heavy use of the wide-angle lens, muted colours and overbearing symmetry, Cronenberg shows us a bleak, yet strangely claustrophobic East End.
Strong supporting performances come from Lynn Redgrave, John Neville and a brooding, sinister Gabriel Byrne as Spider's father. Yet the film is stolen by Miranda Richardson, in a double (or is it triple?) role.
Although the viewer is immediately immersed in Spider's world, seeing through his eyes, it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems. In a crucial exchange between the boy and his father at the allotments, we glimpse Spider through the eyes of the sane. However, the adult Spider continues his exploration of his past right up to its terrible denouement, which he recalls as he is in the process of another awful act of destruction.
Tense though it is, the film proceeds at glacial pace, and at times one feels like telling Cronenberg to get on with it. Indeed, astute viewers will doubtless guess the "twist" an hour before it is revealed, which may prove frustrating. It may have been a stronger work had it been shot at a more appropriate length. And although you are treated to some fine performances, one can't help but fail to forget one is watching Ralf Fiennes pretending to be mad.
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