The Brood ★★★★

It's interesting (and disturbing) that Cronenberg wrote this while undergoing a messy custody battle. Disturbing, obviously, to see one of the finest male cinematic critics of misogyny indulging in it himself, but fascinating for how evocative it nonetheless remains of maternal instincts and legacies of trauma. It's obvious from the general dramatic arc that husband Frank is maybe the only decent person in Nola's periphery, yet it's impossible not to root for her, even as her psychic distress births demon spawn to violently avenge herself. I can actually see where Robin Wood was coming from on the film, especially in light of DC's headspace at the time. Nola's ability to asexually reproduce, and to make those offspring completely attuned to her wavelength to the exclusion of any father figure, certainly speaks to Cronenberg's fears of losing rights to his child.

But I think that, contrary to Wood's assertion that the film upholds repression and patriarchy as useful methods of keeping the peace, the film illustrates the consequences of lopsided power structures and abuse as carried over generations and never discussed. Oliver Reed's experimental psychotherapist seems necessary in the first place because more standard forms of psychiatry were denied his patients until their minds collapsed to the point that called for drastic measures. Cronenberg's career in general often spotlights the horrible transition moment between uptight, sex/self-denying sociality and the breaking of chains that modernity brings (he has, I think, more in common with Antonioni's films of anxiety in the face of sexual liberation than people tend to note). Cronenberg would make more powerful films about the, well, power of female sexuality, but it is here, as it is both in thrall and starting to tear loose from its appointed role as a reproductive agent only, that this career arc starts to take shape. I suppose it's fitting that Cronenberg should "begin" properly with a film about wombs.