That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)


Friday, June 4th, 2010 2:58 pm—Film

Splice (Canada/France/USA 2010, Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller), Writers: Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Taylor; Director: Vincenzo Natali

Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are just your typical 30-something couple. They’ve been living together for a few years, and Clive is thinking children but Elsa isn’t quite there yet. So they create a pseudo-child by splicing human DNA with the DNA of other, unspecified animals (though you can be sure there’s something amphibious in the mix).

I’m still shaky from having seen Splice. That must be a testament to its power and poignancy. I’ll try to be coherent here, but the second-last scene really disturbed me, even though it was foreshadowed in a scene between Elsa and her hybrid creation, Dren (Nerd spelled backwards).

Clive and Elsa are overachieving biochemists who have been successfully splicing the DNA of different non-human species for many years. Under the threat of having their operation shut down, they rashly move forward with splicing human and non-human DNA in secret. The results, of course, are bound to be disastrous, as we’ve learned from all previous creature features of this sort (and in case there was any doubt, the sinister music in the very cool opening titles confirms this). But first, Elsa and Clive bond with Dren, each in their own way. Despite Elsa’s protests that she isn’t ready for motherhood, she ends up stepping eagerly into that role once Dren emerges from her synthetic womb. Even Dren’s arrival parallels a birthing scene, with Elsa—her mother—moaning in pain over a wound inflicted by her “child.”

As Dren grows up (at a highly accelerated pace due to some indeterminate factor in her genetic make-up), Clive and Elsa experience the growing pains that typically accompany parenthood, including having trouble making time for work or each other. But as Dren’s mind and body grow increasingly sophisticated, her parents’ problems become anything but typical, and they soon realize the depth of their error and arrogance.

What’s alarming is how quickly Elsa turns punitive, shaming and maiming Dren, who is her child in all respects—Elsa gave her life, and raised her from infancy. We learn that Elsa’s own mother was something of a nightmare, keeping Elsa in small, dirty room with little more than a mattress as furnishing. As Clive tells it, Elsa didn’t want to have children because she was afraid of losing control, so she opted for engineering her offspring in a lab. It’s no coincidence that when her “carefully controlled” experiment goes awry, Elsa brings Dren to no other place than the home where she herself was raised (in the middle of the woods, no less); a place Elsa ran from to escape her “crazy” mother.

Splice has an obvious point to make about the dangers that creep up when ego and corporate agendas mix with science. But more than that, the film paints a terrifying picture of what happens when we try to control nature (no matter how good the intentions), and how lasting the effects of parenting can be. Watching Dren grow up at warp speed presents an exaggerated study in just how badly children can be damaged by the “wrong” parenting choices. Whenever Elsa thinks she knows best, it quickly becomes clear that Mother Nature knows better.

Elsa and Clive’s mistake is in tampering with something they don’t truly understand. The more they try to control Dren, the more their problems escalate, until both Elsa and Clive cross the line in hideous ways. It’s hard not to wonder if things would have gone so wrong had Dren been given the respect and freedom she asked for, rather than being confined and demeaned. There is no doubt that creating Dren was a mistake. But the mistakes her parents make after her birth point to something far more disturbing than the creatures they engineer—the human capacity for corruption.

I recommend Splice, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that I’m still reeling from it. It’s well paced, and has slick editing, particularly at the beginning. Its script is as intelligent as it is dark and disturbing. Definitely worth seeing, and then considering for awhile afterward.

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