Cronenberg on Cronenberg


197 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-394-22270-9
DDC 791.43'0233'092




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an editor in the College Division of Nelson Canada.


Six interviews recorded with auteur David Cronenberg between 1984 and
1991 are reproduced in this superbly edited volume, which also includes
62 black-and-white photos, detailed endnotes, a filmography, and
unobtrusive, always perceptive running commentaries by the editor.

Film has provided Cronenberg the perfect forum in which to express his
twin passions, science and literature—passions that became
near-casualties over the course of his frustrating stint in academia.
Besides his university days, the filmmaker discourses thoughtfully, and
with more than occasional flashes of brilliance, on each of his films,
from the early, experimental Transfer (1966) to Naked Lunch (1991).
Consistent with his personal duality, he is equally at home discussing
the nuts and bolts of production as he is musing about the mind/body
dichotomy, existential fear, the amorality of disease, political
correctness, beauty amid repulsiveness, sexuality and “body horror,”
and, most unforgettably, his twin nemeses—critics and censors.

There is much in this book that refutes the judgments passed on
Cronenberg’s films by schematically minded and/or squeamish critics.
As for censorship, Cronenberg, himself a victim, lashes out at the
practice (recalling a particularly devastating cut made in The Brood
induces justifiable apoplexy) and argues passionately for freedom of
artistic expression. At a time of intense equivocation about the
artist’s role in society—much of it from the artists themselves—it
is refreshing to encounter an unfashionably unequivocal point of view:
the artist has no social responsibility; characters are not
representative; a film’s themes are not by necessity grounded in
topical concerns (thus, the horror in The Fly goes beyond AIDS to
encompass the universal “disease of being finite”).

The foreword is taken from the journals of psychologist and cinéaste
Dr. Martyn Steenbeck. In it, he calls the work of Cronenberg “a
continuing meta-experiment” in search of a cure for the “disease”
of death; failing, of course, to achieve the impossible, each film
offers in its place “an alternative way of exploring and defusing
anxiety about death.” It is disquieting to learn, in an editorial
note, of Dr. Steenbeck’s “mysterious death by self-immolation in
1988.” Disquieting, yet, in a book that so exquisitely illuminates
Cronenberg’s bizarre universe, perfectly at home. A must for film
libraries and aficionados of horror that appeals to the viscera and the


Cronenberg, David., “Cronenberg on Cronenberg,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,