Thursday, June 13, 2024

“THE SHROUDS”

THE STORYKarsh, 50, is a prominent businessman. Inconsolable since the death of his wife, he invents GraveTech, a revolutionary and controversial technology that enables the living to monitor their dear departed in their shrouds. One night, multiple graves, including that of Karsh’s wife, are desecrated. Karsh sets out to track down the perpetrators.

THE CASTVincent Cassel, Diane Kruger & Guy Pearce

THE TEAMDavid Cronenberg (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes


These days, we seem to be inundated with filmmakers offering up new works that are reflective of their lives and careers. While not necessarily a requirement, many of these pieces are autobiographical in nature. The central perspectives in such films seem to be from characters who embody many details of the director, whether spiritually or physically. It’s an appropriate trend for artists who have reached a certain point in their lives and want to become reflective about their body of work. With “The Shrouds,” David Cronenberg now finds himself entering this arena with his own peculiar outlook that has attached itself to his entire filmography. What he delivers is a flawed yet profound piece of art.

Like many films from the acclaimed auteur, “The Shrouds” is set in Toronto and focuses on a man obsessed with scientific ideas. Karsh (Vincent Cassel) is part owner of a high-tech cemetery. The services offered here involve taking the departed loved ones and encasing them in a synthetic cloth, which allows for post-mortem viewing access. People can get a glimpse into the decomposing bodies beneath the soil as if this were some sort of bizarre form of comfort. Among those buried is Karsh’s wife, Becca (Diane Kruger). Even after many years, he still grieves her loss and finds solace in conversations with her twin sister Terry (also Kruger). One night, disaster strikes when several of the gravesites are vandalized by unknown assailants. Enlisting the help of his tech-wiz brother-in-law Maury (Guy Pearce), Karsh goes on a path to discover the unsettling truth behind this harassment and reveal an inner truth that has haunted him for such a long time.

It would be inaccurate to say that this film touches on subjects Cronenberg has previously left unexplored. Commentaries on sex, death, relationships, conspiracy, and technology have been present from his cinematic inception. It also would not be true to claim that this is his most emotional effort. Even when playing in the realms of ungodly creatures and cold intellect, there has always been a poignant core to his films that has been mined. One might expect “The Shrouds” to be more indulgent with this matter, as the main character is an obsessive artist who also happens to have a history with filmmaking and whose wife passed away from illness. There are plenty of comparisons to make to the real-life inspiration, but what keeps the catharsis muted is his script: a collage of scenes with lengthy exposition dumps usually assembled through stilted dialogue. The latter has never been a Cronenberg strength, but the unending monologues of description eventually wear down one’s patience. The weakness of the writing and the uninteresting plot mechanics are the driving forces behind much of the anemic pacing.

However, what is shown to light in every moment is how this thematic dissection is felt on a deep level. When flashbacks occur in “The Shrouds” that show Becca’s deterioration, she is not shown as a frail woman slowly wasting away in a hospital bed. Instead, we see a young woman, full of life, continually being operated on, with visible, graphic scars appearing and body parts being amputated. It’s a manifestation of the grief many feel when watching someone close succumb to their disease. The once vibrant personality with which you interacted is being meddled with, examined, and dissected to eradicate their affliction but also to deform their spirit. That we never see a withering Becca and, instead, a young woman continually mutilated speaks to this viewpoint, to the sense that an external force is what’s stealing vitality. We become distracted from this inescapable horror by conspiracies and other fanciful preoccupations. It’s a touching examination that colors the entire experience of the film, and it’s what gives the narrative a heartbreaking element that makes it compelling despite the flaws within.

There’s also much to admire from the performances, even if they are inconsistent in terms of their effectiveness. Cassel may be styled to slightly resemble his director, but the persona he showcases has a somber energy that digs to find the persistent melancholy festering in this man. He very rarely has large outbursts and instead desperately tries to maintain his collected demeanor that is an inch away from faltering. It’s a commanding turn exuding a quiet yet powerful intensity. The chemistry Cassel shares with Kruger is a little awkward, but she has impactful scenes that communicate the tragedy of Becca and the complicated set of desires within Terry. Pearce isn’t given much to do with a character beyond the hyper-fixation on wild conspiracy theories. Still, there is an oddly endearing quality to his portrayal that is humorous and engrossing. Sandrine Holt serves as another arm for sentimental affection as a mysterious new lover entering Karsh’s life who breathes a tender persona in a fairly underwritten role.

Much of “The Shrouds” is fairly indicative of what one would expect from Cronenberg, both the good and the bad. His philosophical ideas are in conflict with their execution, trapped under the weight of a laborious screenplay struggling to maintain its aura of engagement. It muddies the waters and slows down the momentum to a frustrating degree. Yet, those themes are also crystalized enough to become part of an enthralling process of discovery. Its messages about how one tolerates loss and mourning are captivating notions that speak to a thoughtful, relatable truth. For being yet another filmmaker choosing to use the medium as a method to express his complicated ideology, this one is a messy albeit intriguing example.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - David Cronenberg creates a sincere portrait of loss and grief crafted through a movie perspective. Its themes are poignant and moving in their conception, making it an emotionally resonant work. The performances from the cast are endearing.

THE BAD - The narrative is full of stale exposition delivered through stilted dialogue, creating a convoluted mess that often impedes the effectiveness of the intended catharsis.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Previous article
Next article
Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

98,860FollowersFollow
98,860FollowersFollow
7,305FansLike
7,305FansLike
4,490FollowersFollow
4,490FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>David Cronenberg creates a sincere portrait of loss and grief crafted through a movie perspective. Its themes are poignant and moving in their conception, making it an emotionally resonant work. The performances from the cast are endearing.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The narrative is full of stale exposition delivered through stilted dialogue, creating a convoluted mess that often impedes the effectiveness of the intended catharsis.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"THE SHROUDS"