The Brood (1979)

The Brood (1979)

If you’re looking for a definition of “Cronenbergian,” The Brood isn’t a bad place to start. It’s deliberately paced, pairing operatic grandeur with restrained domesticity. It prominently features Cronenberg’s early obsessions of science fiction, horror and body horror, interwoven with more conventional problems; as Cronenberg uses genre conventions to comment on the emotional damage dealt by divorce. Mark Leonard describes the film as “a scathing answer to Kramer vs. Kramer” and I don’t disagree.

Unfortunately the subtext proves problematic when subjected to more than a cursory analysis, given it’s produced by a man who’d recently divorced his first wife. The Brood channels the ragged ruin wrought by divorce … except that this damage is invariably at the hands of Nola, whose ex-husband is the unambiguous hero of the piece. Nola’s spitefulness and jealousy bring about tragedy and she revels in the devastation; it’s hardly an even-handed portrayal.

I don’t know that I’d describe The Brood as misogynistic, but it’s demonstrative of Cronenberg’s hatred of one woman – his ex-wife. Ironically, given the film’s evident distrust of therapy, it serves as therapy itself – good for helping Cronenberg move on, perhaps, but a more balanced approach would have made for a better film.

Rating: 85/200

6 thoughts on “The Brood (1979)

  1. This remains my favorite Cronenberg film. It has that ferocious emotional core that is evident in all his movies with a strangely captivating, and infinitely disturbing, concept that refuses to let you go from minute one. The devastating climax is one that lives long in the memory.

    • Interesting – I personally found it (on first viewing, at least) to be a lesser Cronenberg; I think the emotional core beneath it is powerful and the cilmax is certainly memorable, but I think my biggest sticking point (aside from the anti-ex-wife subtext I mentioned above) was Art Hindle’s performance. I never really sympathised with his character, particularly his relationship with his daughter, and therefore didn’t really emotionally engage with his plight.

  2. Definitely would love to see a more balanced approach to this material. This is just too much for me. I’ve never understood the wild praise for it, nor the bloodthirsty hate. I’m pretty much in the middle.

    • Yeah – it’s interesting that Cronenberg is often defined by his cold detachment, yet this film is far from detached – and probably would have been a lot better had he not made it in such close proximity to his own divorce.

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