Stereo (1969) Director David Cronenburg
20 Minute Review
Set in some sort of research establishment the film portrays the events surrounding the experimentation into telepathy and eroticism on a number of volunteers .
Grainy footage, no doubt enhanced by the format [16mm] and possible deterioration of the print, provided a convincing effect that the viewer was watching footage taken from some sort of monitoring camera system. A commentary delivered in a drawled monotone accompaning the footage at intermittent intervals within the film added to the deception that the viewer was participating in some form of review, or report on the events as they unfolded.
Although purporting to be set in the future, how far [from 1969] this future was there was no indication. The capes and a walking canes favoured by the male characters for outdoor wear suggested the late Victorian era. Indoors doublet, of the late medieval style, and hose seemed to be the preferred apparel. This latter sartorial concept failed to convince me that the setting futuristic, giving more the impression of actors whiling their time between scene calls for one of Shakespeare’s “Wars of the Roses” plays.
Perhaps Cronenburg would have been better to follow on of the familiar clichés to suggest the future by kitting people out in metallic jumpsuits. He could have course looked at the changes to clothing in the past century and concluded that trousers and a shirt would still likely to be worn and dressed his characters so.
The story line is of the experimentation on a number of young adults, male and female, to ascertain the effects of telepathy on erotic behaviour.
This was developed by the narrative voice, which contained a good helping of psycho-babble. Using the voice of a young adult to deliver the narrative, adding a sprinkling of psychological/medical terminology and a pinch of “Gestant” , to suggest the link to Freud et al, Cronenburg encourages the listener to believe that the narration is a report and that this pretentious clap-trap is exactly what one would expect from the mouth of a young researcher out to impress his audience.
References to Stringfellow and eroticism also were liberally thrown out by the narrator. This was somewhat confusing to the reviewer. Could it be perhaps a reference to Stringfellow’s Club in London with its erotic dancers, etc, which was part of some formal study into erotic behaviour. It was not obvious at this point in the film.
Although not the mutant haggis variety of his later films we are shown in one scene the replica internal organs of a medical mannequin. a miniature female version of which later manifests itself in the film “Dead Ringers”.
Other scenes for future films also get their rehearsal outing. Through the narrator we are told that one of the volunteers drills a hole in his forehead to [successfully] release the pressure on his brain. Unlike the same event in Scanners we do not see the actual event, being limited to the suggestion of occurrence through the character probing his forehead.
At this point if one believes in the reality of the film one can have an interesting philosophical conundrum. Did the character have an original thought to drill his head, or being in the future, could he have been influenced by the scene in Scanners.
After twenty minutes I received a telepathic message through the film telling me to get an alcoholic drink to relieve the tedium. I therefore obeyed and went to the bar for a beer. Unfortunately only Cronenburg was on offer. So in the tradition of all good News of the Screws investigating journalists “I made an excuse and left”.
Review by Phil Eastine