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Infinity Pool Explained

Courtesy of Neon

Even with a tiny sample of people, I feel comfortable proclaiming anyone with the last name Cronenberg is a trip. While I remain a massive fan of the Weird works of David Cronenberg, I have always been a bit uneasy with the gloopy violent world of body horror that has come to define his filmmaking. Infinity Pool, the newest feature from his son Brandon ((who has become an auteur in his own right), borrows heavily from that aesthetic while introducing a more overt discussion of class, wealth, and entitlement. Spoilers ahead for Infinity Pool Explained.

Perhaps the most straightforward interpretation one could find within Infinity Pool is in its discussion of wealth, power, and accountability. Em (Cleopatra Coleman) and James (Alexander Skarsgård) are off on vacation at a resort in Latoka (also referred to as li tolqa in some of the press literature), a developing country that seems to be an amalgamation of a Caribbean island and a baltic beach town. The government is violent, scary, and poor, but the resorts that line its beaches flock with rich folks looking to enjoy a caged paradise. James and Em befriend another couple, played by Mia Goth and Jalil Lespert.

At dinner, we get our first real clue about Cronenberg’s aims. The accents that both Goth and Lespert give us seem to be a complicated melange of French, English, and Swiss (also a French dialect). Infinity Pool does not want to indict America alone, which would have been the easy route. Both Goth and Lespert are undoubtedly the drivers of malevolence, and as they force the action, Cronenberg wants to be clear that being a wealthy, cruel psychopath is a symptom of the west, not just the United States.

Infinity Pool and a Critique of Wealth

Courtesy of Neon

James clearly is interested in Gabi. When she gives him a reach-around (like, for real, that is the only way to describe it) while they are out on an excursion, James seems to be drawn into her bizarre web. On the way back from that drunken day trip to a beach outside of the compound, James hits and kills a farmer walking down the street. He does it by accident but is still criminally culpable. Alban and Gabi convince Em and James that they will handle it, and they make it back to the resort.

Later the next day, the police come to arrest James. At the station, the main plot device reveals itself. To make things right with the local farmer’s family, the police will make a copy of James. After they make a copy, the farmer’s son will kill the doppelganger. That doppelganger will come into existence as an exact replica of James. He will have Jame’s memories, feelings, and identity. The transaction comes at a price. Once James dips into the ATM, the deed is done. We watch James and Em observe the twin’s brutal demise. Everything for a price. It is a disturbing scene that manages to scare Em and James straight…for roughly three hours.

Money and Consequences in Infinity Pool

As James returns, the couple packs up to leave. But James can’t find his passport, so he must go down to the front desk to arrange a few extra nights. Gabi and a larger group of friends are drinking and enjoying the resort. They convince James to party with them, and eventually, they go on a killing spree of their own. They discuss how they have been to Latoka before and refer to each other as zombies.

It is a curious phrase filled with meaning. It leaves us to believe that they have used the clone get-out-of-jail-free card before. After the end of the evening, all of them are rearrested for a burglary gone bad. During the theft, a hand full of locals are killed. We see all of the tourist group get their throats cut but not before the camera pans over to see the “real group” cheering and sitting in the stands. They seem to react like fans of a sporting event. They are enthralled and excited by the massacre of their twins. Their consequences are never bigger than their pocketbooks, and the exploitation of the native people continues unabated.

Q and the Mark of Elite Cruelty

It is hard not to draw connections to the large and vast Q-Anon conspiracy. If the elite of Infinity Pool were to harvest a drug from the brain of their victims, we would have all of the elements of the conspiracy, but instead, Gabi introduces a native drug to James that she tells him is a hallucinogen and an aphrodisiac. One can’t help but make connections here to drug tourism in central and south America. Westerners like to take holy experiences and turn them into sex parties. It’s what we do, I guess.

As James gets deeper involved in the group’s illegal activity, we see the reach of their money extends to the cloning itself. After the group convinces James that a police detective is actually the one holding the keys to his new passport, the group kidnaps the constable. However, we come to realize that they have created an additional doppelganger of James to kill and torture. It is ambiguous whether this is a right of passage or more sadism.

The Hazing Ritual of the Elite in Infinity Pool

Courtesy of Neon

The movie reminds you over and over that James is only in this scenario because Em is rich. Her father is a media mogul, and James is mostly a failed writer. He isn’t really elite. He is one more victim, albeit with a bit more agency. The film takes on an almost hazing-like feel towards the end, with the group demanding more violence and blood, leading to an absolutely brutal fight between James and his doppelganger.

James wins (kind of either way, right). The end of the film features an absolutely bizarre moment where James crawls to Gabi only to have Gabi wipe blood on her breast so that James can suckle it as a newborn baby might. The symbols are significant and obvious. James, having shed all of the empathy and compassion of his previous life, has now created a space for himself in this elite community. He has been literally reborn and now nurses on the breast of the mother who brought him into this world. We learn the next day that James hid the passport himself and is headed home with the rest of the group. Ultimately though, he cannot return to the kept world of being a nobody with someone else’s money. The final shot shows James lying on a chair in an abandoned resort as the rainy season starts.

Kill Your Darlings or They Will Kill You

James is an author, a creator, and an artist. It is nearly impossible not to compare what Cronenberg is attempting to say about being an artist. The wisdom that authors should be willing to kill their darlings has been around for eons. The Song of Ice and Fire is a testament to just how successful that plot device can be. Infinity Pool doesn’t just kill its darlings but rather kills its artist over and over and over again. One of the final shots of the movie has James packing the urns with his clone’s ashes into his suitcase as if they were one more souvenir of the vacation.

Cronenberg seems to be obsessed with the idea that different versions of an artist must die to provide the room to grow and experience new things. This older version stays with us and occasionally demands a blood sacrifice of its own. The struggle with these versions of ourselves seems constant, and in perhaps the bleakest of all possible readings, the most empathetic, caring, and compassionate versions always die.