“The Nest” (dir. David Cronenberg, 2014, 9:18)
In September, Scribner will be publishing David Cronenberg’s first novel, Consumed, described as a surreal thriller about two Internet reporters/personalities who “become entwined in a gripping, dreamlike plot that involves geopolitics, 3-D printing, North Korea, the Cannes Film Festival, cancer, and, in an incredible number of varieties, sex.” Back in April, Cronenberg released a “trailer” for Consumed, consisting of an excerpt from a nine-minute short he made for the International Film Festival Of Rotterdam and the EYE Film Institute, as part of an exhibition that will be up at EYE from June 22 through September 14. Last week, the IFFR posted the complete short, “The Nest,” on YouTube, where it will remain available all summer, before being removed right around the time Consumed comes out.
Without having read Consumed, I can’t say for sure how “The Nest” connects to the book, though the synopsis for the novel mentions two doctors: “an unlicensed surgeon named Zoltán Molnar, once sought by Interpol for organ trafficking,” and a Toronto doctor, Barry Roiphe, who has discovered a rare STD and, “now studies his own adult daughter, whose bizarre behavior masks a devastating secret.” The two doctors appear in the parts of Consumed involving a journalist named Nathan. The rest of the book is about a journalist named Naomi who investigates two libertine philosophers, Aristide and Celestine, one of whom may have killed and eaten the other. All told, the novel sounds like classic Cronenberg, exploring sexual desire, grotesque body-modification, and dualities.
In “The Nest,” a topless Celestine consults with Dr. Molnar, in what looks like somebody’s basement. In a single, creepy take, Molnar discusses his concerns about Celestine’s upcoming mastectomy, and the two of them discuss strategies for what to do about the insects that are crawling around inside her left breast. (Celestine’s suggestion: Start by just removing the nipple, to create an “escape hatch.”) Again, Cronenberg introduces a good twin/bad twin, with one breast infested and the other normal.
As with a lot of Cronenberg’s work, “The Nest” plays off the audience’s fears—of mutilation, of doctors, of crawly things. But while the film is explicit in one way, keeping the half-naked Celestine in the frame for nine full minutes, the horror/gore elements are left to the viewer’s imagination. And undoubtedly, that’s what it’s going to be like to read Consumed.
Previous “Short Cuts” columns can be found here.