Piers Handling, Director and CEO of TIFF admits to a long standing admiration for David Cronenberg, a personal connection that dates back to his student days at Queen’s University where he first saw Cronenberg’s movie ‘Stereo’. Since then Piers has watched David Cronenberg grow into a major international filmmaker. When TIFF expanded to a year round operation, Cronenberg was approached about donating all his archives and film material to TIFF. The intention was that once TIFF Bell Lightbox was up and running, the first major show curated by TIFF from its own collection would be on David Cronenberg.
This exhibit is the culmination of many decades of work with David. Coming full circle, The first serious major retrospective of David Cronenberg’s work was done in the ’80s in conjunction with the book ‘The Shape of Rage’ edited by Piers Handling.
In the early phase of his career, David Cronenberg was an experimental filmmaker. His films portrayed scientists experimenting to improve the human race, a major preoccupation in the Western world. Cronenberg’s films from ‘Stereo’ to ‘Scanners’ usually include unwilling victims of experiments gone awry. In the second phase of David’s career from Videodrome to eXisteZ, the experimenters are actually experimenting on themselves trying to improve their condition. They are curious about sexuality, teleportation, telepathy and controlling their destiny. From ‘Spider’ onward, you see in a third phase David more involved in the external, larger social world. Questions of marriage, society, engagement with a wider universe dominate. These films are much less dependent upon special effects and use much more conventional narrative. ‘History of Violence’, ‘Eastern Promises’, ‘Cosmopolis’, ‘A Dangerous Method’ define Cronenberg’s third phase evolution.
David started with genre films. In a very commercial period of his life he decided to work with horror and science fiction which allowed him to reach a popular, commercial market place. Films like ‘The Fly’, ‘Scanners’, ‘The Dead Zone’ were made for studios targeting a mass audience. ‘Dead Ringers’ marked a key moment in David’s filmmaking career. He was becoming a much more personal artist, making films his way.