David Cronenberg movies have always been about our internal selves being affected by external forces, and his adaptation of Don DeLillo’s ’post-capitalist’ epic is no different. Many saw a cheap trick being played via DeLillo’s inscrutable prose - adapted directly for the screen - and Cronenberg’s refusal to provide archetypal narrative signifiers. But the resulting film is one of the Canadian filmmaker’s most mystifying projects. In "Cosmopolis," it’s money re-writing the very makeup of humanity itself.
Robert Pattinson’s Erik Packer cruises through Manhattan in his stretch limo in search of a haircut; Cronenberg filming him through a pixelated, digitized hue. He has conversations with a number of successive passengers - most of them fixated on the topic of things that they "do not know." Money no longer actually exists. The banal and the globally seismic mingle. Protests rage on the street, assassination attempts are made; a "philosophical interlude" is had. He almost gets a haircut.
It’s an eternally confounding film, economic philosophy by way of a faux-narrative; and as such the two major extra features are almost essential. First off is a commentary with Cronenberg himself, who details the process - he wrote the script, basically by Xeroxing the novel, in a scant couple days - and offers his interpretations of the dialogue (in many cases, he doesn’t seem sure of their meanings himself.)
But the real ’value’ of the package is in "Citizens of Cosmopolis," a behind-the-scenes documentary. This is no cheap made-to-show-in-between-films-on-HBO featurette; it’s a detailed feature that looks into every aspect of the filmmaking, from casting to cinematography to footage of the shoot itself to interviews with the cast, to details on post-production and release. It’s as long as the film itself, and the rare behind-the-scenes feature that compliments the film instead of just selling it. Most films aren’t even deserving of such treatment. But for "Cosmopolis," even a feature-length special feature can only scratch the surface of what’s in the film itself.