PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 21: Alexander Skarsgård attends 2023 Sundance Film Festival “Infinity Pool” Premiere at The Ray Theatre on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images).
By Katie Small
What’s the worst thing that could go wrong on a writing retreat to an island resort?
Everything that you could possibly imagine will likely seem quaint or cliché in comparison to the surreal fever dream that Infinity Pool delivers. Brandon Cronenberg returns to Sundance (Possessor, 2020 Sundance Film Festival) with an uncanny sci-fi that lives up to the legacy of his last name.
James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) is a struggling writer living off his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman)’s trust fund, casually seeking inspiration while vacationing at an elite resort on the fictional island of Li Tolqa. The couple’s lazy getaway is interrupted by the seductive and enigmatic Gabi (Mia Goth), a muse who arrives out of nowhere claiming she is James’ biggest fan.
In a captivating performance by horror-queen Goth, Gabi quickly draws mild-mannered James into her ring of wealthy, hedonistic friends. She convinces them to sneak outside the confines of the heavily guarded resort on a secret escapade to an off-limits beach. On the way back, James strikes a local farmer while driving, killing the man instantly.
According to the questionable laws of Li Tolqa, the punishment for such a crime is death by execution — but a loophole allows foreigners to avoid death… for a price. The ethical and moral ramifications of the loophole send James spiraling into a series of bizarre events filled with psychological torment, egged on by his new group of unpredictable and manipulative friends.
Infinity Pool’s unique cinematography employs extreme close-ups, unusual compositions, and naturalistic lighting to place the viewer directly in the story. The film’s editing offers a kaleidoscope of trippy formal elements (and comes with a warning for strobes, violence, and nudity). Hallucinogenic orgy scenes induce a trancelike state, and striking mise-en-scène includes creepy masks (designed by conceptual artist and filmmaker Richard Raaphorst) and mysterious eye tattoos that identify the Li Tolqan locals.
Despite the late hour, audience members stuck around after Infinity Pool’s midnight premiere for a lively Q&A with the cast, in which Skarsgård described his experience during production. “Fighting a naked version of myself to the death and being breastfed by Mia were pretty memorable moments,” laughs Skarsgård. “There’s a lot of conformity or monotony when you read scripts, but — well, you’ve just seen the movie, it’s crazy… love it or hate it, it’s rare to experience something like this as an actor.”
It’s rare to experience something like this as a viewer, too — with graphic scenes that will sear themselves into your memory, Infinity Pool examines manipulation, power dynamics, and carnal instincts.