science fiction cinema has consistently, if unconsciously, manifested an intriguing split in its attitude toward the machine, treating it unabashedly as a dehumanizing oppressor while lovingly lingering over its gleaming gizmos. Crash, scripted nearly faithfully by David Cronenberg from English sci-fi writer J. G. Ballard’s 1973 cult novel, knowingly interrogates this ambivalence in a harrowing exploration of the human/machine symbiosis—specifically the human automotive interface. (Note that the director himself has been an amateur racer and car enthusiast.)
KeywordsAmid Ghost Toll Serpentine Harness
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- 1.See J. G. Ballard, Crash (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994). Cronenberg/Ballard’s fusion of the human and the inanimate/mechanical has numerous precedents in early twentieth-century painting and theater that address a wide spectrum of ideological positions. The unabashed machine idolatry of many Futurists and Vorticists was informed by a prefascist sensibility. Russian Constructivism often valorized the human/machine interface in the name of the proletarian revolution. The leftist-inflected theatrical projects of Meyerhold in Russia, of Ernst Toller and Georg Kaiser in Germany inter alia prominently featured “biomechanical” tropes in script, acting, and set design.Google Scholar
- For an extensive discussion, see Oscar G. Brockett, The History of Theater (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1974).Google Scholar
- 3.The seminal reference in this regard is Klaus Theweleit’s studies of the Freikorps, a loosely knit fellowship of disaffiliated young men, many former soldiers, who gathered together after World War I to redeem the Fatherland’s savaged honor in the context of what they perceived as the debasements of the Weimar Republic and the rising tide of Bolshevism. Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies: Volume 1: Women, Floods, Bodies, History, trans. Erica Carter, Chris Turner, and Steven Conway (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987); Male Fantasies: Volume 2: Male Bodies: Psychoanalyzing the White Terror, trans. Steven Conway, Erica Carter and Chris Turner (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989). Theweleit uses Freikorps mores and costumes as a springboard for a masterful analysis of masculine anxiety regarding castration and impotence, attendant terror of the feminine, and compensatory homosocial/homoerotic visions of male purity. This work has obvious, ominous currency regarding the contemporary American militia movement as well as other renascent fascist movements abroad.Google Scholar
- Recent studies extending Thewelheit’s interrogations of the “armored body” include Scott Bukatman’s Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993) andGoogle Scholar
- Christopher Sharrett’s “The Horror Film in Neoconservative Culture,” in Barry Keith Grant, ed., The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).Google Scholar