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Dead Ringers (1988)

There’s nothing the matter with the instrument, it’s the body. The woman’s body is all wrong! Elliot Mantle (Jeremy Irons), a successful gynecologist, works at the same practice as his identical twin, Beverly (also Irons). They do everything together, working in the same practice, living together in an apartment. Elliot is attracted to many of his patients and has affairs with them. When he inevitably loses interest, he will give the woman over to Beverly, the meeker of the two, without the woman knowing the difference. Beverly falls hard for one of the patients, actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold) who is desperate to conceive. When she inadvertently deceives him, after sleeping with Elliot without realising, he slips into a state of madness exacerbated by his use of drugs with her. When she goes away on a film shoot for 12 weeks he succumbs to a state of almost totally arrested development and becomes psychotic … Don’t you ever read the National Enquirer? “Star’s Life Empty Without Children”? An anatomical investigation of psychosexual and surgical horror with wonderfully schematic design at every level – character, design and story – and an almost feral Bujold driving these conjoined lives apart with medical precision. Adapted from the true story of the Marcus brothers, Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland, the screenplay by director David Cronenberg and Norman Snider unwinds the surgeons from their DNA-like spiral of co-dependent existence and nods to the myths of doctors – the supposed perversion of ob-gyns, the belief that all doctors use drugs and women promiscuously – with their realities eventually spinning out in brutally opposing ways. The brilliance of the film is at its twinnish core: from the production style by Carol Spier – gawp at the matching fallopian tube-like staircases in their shared apartment and the horrifying theatre instruments – to the mutual fascination expressed beautifully by Irons as each brother in his sibling, and the tragic realisation that life for one without the other is simply impossible, underlined by Howard Shore’s masterful score. An exhilarating examination of genetics and environment and romance that is also touching and ultimately devastating. Surely Cronenberg’s masterpiece. Separation can be a… terrifying thing

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

One response to “Dead Ringers (1988)

  1. Pingback: Great Watching: Dead Ringers (1988) – a1000mistakes

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