From the page to the screen can be a very difficult and trying transition. A novel can be a complex beast with a number of them deemed un-filmable. It takes a skilled hand to strip down a novel to its core and building a screenplay that carries forward the essence of the story without getting too bogged own in the minutiae of sub plots and peripheral characters. When it came to adapt the Don Delillo novel Cosmopolis for the screen the ideal choice for the job appeared to be David Cronenburg. He had a track record of producing films from difficult novels such as Crash and Naked Lunch. Would his touch elude him this time or maintain his reputation as the go to man for difficult films.
We follow Eric Packer, a twenty-eight year old billionaire asset manager over the course of one day. He wants to get a haircut and rather than going to the barbershop across the street from his office he has to go a particular shop across town. To do so he takes his customised stretch limo into the busy streets of the city. The city streets are congested enough on normal days but today traffic is moving a snail’s pace due to a Presidential visit, A funeral procession for a superstar rapper and an anti capitalist protest.
Undeterred by these inconveniences and the fact that his head of security strongly urges him to not travel as there are two credible threats against his life. On his travels across the city Eric meets various people for both business and personal reasons. All in the comfortable cocoon of his car.. He has encounters with his new wife (Sarah Gadon) of one month at several locations. They eat and discuss the fact hat they have not yet consumed their union. Several of the meetings cross over between his personal life and his business activities, notably when he is discussing the serious financial losses he is taking while getting his daily prostate exam from his doctor. Eric slowly moves onwards to the conclusion that he has possibly worked out for himself.
This is not an easy film to get into. It has a lot of dialogue. It plunges you into the conversations as if you had some previous knowledge of the subjects at hand. There is a lot of financial terms being bandied about. There is no easy way into the conversations for the audience. This I assume ids deliberate on the part of the film maker. You are not supposed to get it right away. It s a dense almost foreign language that requires a lot of attention to begin to comprehend.
The film is held together by the charismatic acting talents of Robert Pattinson. He is on screen for almost all of the one hundred and nine minute running time. In previous films, notably the twilight franchise, he has not had to stretch himself in acting terms. Looking pale and moody with occasional shimmering in the sunlight doesn’t get you acting plaudits. In Cosmopolis he has extended scenes with some heavyweight acting talent. His scenes with Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti showcase his talent. He does not look out of place in their company at all. In fact he is a match for all of them. A pleasant surprise for me.
As with all his work, David Cronenberg produces a unique piece of film. The majority of the film is seen from the inside of the car. We see it from every conceivable angle. It is done in such a way to carry the film forward with ease. In the foreground we get the main story with the real world caught in glimpses through the car windows. It is always calm in the car even when the ant capitalist riot is in full flow outside on the street. There is always very little noise leaking in. Noise can be seen as a distraction from his though processes. Eric proudly tells his wife that the car is custom-made with cork lining to dull the noise.
The main theme of the film seems to be dis-association. Eric is in a position where money, people and ambition have no meaning to him. He has everything he could possibly want. When some thing new comes up for grabs he wants to acquire it. Not for pleasure. Just to have it. He quips he is so rich that he has two elevators in his apartment. Which one he uses is dependent on his mood at the time. They are programmed to play different music to suit his mood.
This is not a particularly easy film to watch. As I have said it has a lot of dense dialogue that require your attention throughout. I struggled at times to follow just what was going on. This is not a bad thing as it leads to at least one more viewing to catch some of the stuff missed first time around.
Overall a very interesting film that will reward your attention. Recommended