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Spider (2003)
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Spider (2003)

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Posted by Jan den Breejen ( on August 05, 2003 at 01:41:22:

Why are movies on Idiosyncratic Style persons allways on men? I would want to see a movie showing a Style example from the other sex.


Review: 'Spider' a strange tale well spun
By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer
Thursday, February 27, 2003 Posted: 3:37 PM EST (2037 GMT)

Ralph Fiennes plays a man recently released from a mental institution in "Spider."


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EW.com: Review: 'Spider'

(CNN) -- First "The Fly" (1986), now "Spider." It seems writer/director David Cronenberg has a thing for insects.

Cronenberg is generally known for his over-the-top special effects and raw, exceedingly graphic images. In fact, the Canadian filmmaker's nickname is "the baron of blood." Remember the tag line for "The Fly": "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

But "Spider," based on the book and screenplay by Patrick McGrath, is a change of pace. No, this master of mutation hasn't turned to light comedy. "Spider" is pure Cronenberg, but without the special effects.

Once again the director is fascinated with the outer edges of the human psyche. This family psychodrama, with a lot of Freudian overtones, is a bleak and unsparing look at the mind of a schizophrenic man, played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes. This film's tag line is "The only thing worse than losing your mind -- is finding it again."

"Spider" is one of those films where you have to pay attention to every frame. The dialogue is very sparse, especially from the title character. This is a highly subjective film, and the story is told from inside Dennis "Spider" Cleg's (Fiennes) head -- needless to say, a very distorted viewpoint.

Nicknamed "Spider" because of his love for webs made of string -- and creating a web of lies about his past -- Cleg has spent most of his life in a mental institution after suffering a traumatic childhood event, one you won't fully understand until the end of the film.

Stirring up memories
We first met Spider upon his release from the institution, as he's moving into a rundown boarding house located in his old East London neighborhood. The place serves as a halfway house for the mentally ill and is run by Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave), an emotionally remote woman forced to take in boarders. The location stirs up many memories that have festered in Spider's damaged mind for years.

Many of Spider's memories revolve around his parents, played by Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson.
As the story progresses, it morphs into two separate realities. One reality is based in a sick mind reliving a distorted past. The other reality reflects events as they actually occur.

Sanity, or insanity, becomes something that is in the mind of the beholder. Spider becomes a voyeur of his own life. He's like a fly on the wall witnessing his 10-year-old self interacting with his abusive father (played by Gabriel Byrne), and his doting mother (Miranda Richardson).

As his fractured childhood begins to come together, Spider's frail hold on sanity starts to slip. Slowly, the layers of truth are peeled back until Spider is forced to make a choice: face the facts or retreat into insanity.

Excellent Fiennes
This is not a film for the faint of heart, but fans of Cronenberg are used to that. While this is not one of those movies you'll want to see again and again, the performance by Fiennes is truly remarkable, conveying a great deal of emotion without speaking. Fiennes is an actor with an enormous inner life; his work has always has a deep subtext. Few actors could have handled this role and kept the interest and the sympathy of the audience.

Richardson and Byrne are also excellent in parts that, again, are not fully realized in the script, yet both fill the screen with moving portrayals of extremely flawed people by using facial expressions, movements and gestures.

As in "Gods And Monsters" (1998), Redgrave is unrecognizable in a small, but pivotal role, this time as Mrs. Wilkinson.

"Spider" is not for everyone: it's an art film with a capital A, and its slow pace may drive some viewers to distraction. But the wonderful performances will make it a satisfying experience for some.

"Spider" opens in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, February 28 and is rated R.

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