David Cronenberg Expects 'A Lot Of Walkouts' For His Very Graphic Crimes Of The Future

David Cronenberg's films are often uncomfortable to watch — in a delightfully unhinged way, of course. Cronenberg is no stranger to alienating mainstream audiences with his films, a case in point being his 1996 Cannes premiere of "Crash," which made some viewers sick to the stomach and prompted a few walkouts.

Cronenberg's upcoming horror sci-fi drama, "Crimes of the Future," will see his return to the twisted, psychological aspects connected to the human body, which acts as the perfect segue into the director's masterful grasp over the body horror genre. In an interview with Deadline, Cronenberg spoke about the graphic nature of "Crimes of the Future," due to which he expects the "last 20 minutes" to be "very hard on people," and expects "a lot of walkouts:"

"There are some very strong scenes. I mean, I'm sure that we will have walkouts within the first five minutes of the movie. I'm sure of that. Some people who have seen the film have said that they think the last 20 minutes will be very hard on people, and that there'll be a lot of walkouts. Some guy said that he almost had a panic attack. And I say, 'Well, that would be OK.' But I'm not convinced that that will be a general reaction. I do expect walkouts in Cannes, and that's a very special thing."

The Crash impact at Cannes

Cronenberg is no stranger to stirring up controversy at Cannes. In 1996, "Crash" made its premiere at the prestigious French film festival to the sound of angry boos and storm-outs, while the Cannes jury was powerfully divided on the erotic drama. Cronenberg recalled in a 2020 Q&A with Canadian press that jury president Francis Ford Coppola was so opposed to award Cronenberg with the rare Special Jury Prize for the film that he refused to personally present the award to him.  

"In fact, during the final closing night ceremony he wouldn't hand me the award," Cronenberg said. "He had someone else hand it to me. He wouldn't do it himself."

To this day, the notoriety around the Cannes premiere of "Crash" would follow the film throughout its release — it was banned by a theater in Norway, was repeatedly attacked by U.K. tabloids, and received an NC-17 American release with the tagline "The most controversial film in years" — and still follows Cronenberg to this day. But Cronenberg recalled the controversy fondly, saying in the 2020 Q&A, "It was terrifically exciting, and a lot of fun, on one level... It basically reminds you that you don't get anything for free. You have to fight for everything."

'I really don't think we'll have a Crash experience'

Cronenberg has been clear that while his motivations are to create movies to garner a reaction from audiences, as cinema is a conversation, the more widely interpretative and diverse, the better. However, he clarified that his intention is not to "shock people or assault them" with his ideas, as he simply intends to put forth his vision, no matter how audacious it might appear on a superficial level.

With "Crimes of the Future," Cronenberg will be diving into the near future where adapting to synthetic surroundings is a necessity for humans, which inevitably ushers in the next stage of evolution, both psychologically and physically speaking. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) can be viewed as an artist who uses scientific advancements to examine the human condition, most importantly, his own body, which acts as an experimental canvas for creative expression, sexuality, and the psychological makeup of the human mind.

When asked whether he expects a repeat of the strong audience reaction to the Cannes premiere of "Crash," Cronenberg explained that he is "not nervous" about it, although he does expect the "notorious clack" of seats as one gets up:

"Well, I'm not nervous. I'm looking forward to it because you make a film to have people react to it. Now, I really don't think that we'll have a Crash experience.

People always walk out, and the seats notoriously clack as you get up because the seats fold back and hit the back of the seat. So, you hear clack, clack, clack. Whether they'll be outraged the way they were with Crash, I somehow don't think so. They might be revulsed to the point that they want to leave, but that's not the same as being outraged. However, I have no idea really what's going to happen."

Apart from Mortensen, "Crimes of the Future" also stars Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, and Don McKellar.

"Crimes of the Future" will premiere at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, which will run from May 17 to May 28, 2022. The film will then release in theaters on June 3, 2022.