The End of the Road

David Cronenberg’s Crash and the Fading of the West
  • Mikita Brottman
  • Christopher Sharrett


in crash, david cronenberg negotiates our ambivalent attitudes toward death and destruction on the roads as well as the attractions of car crashes, using the car and the architecture of contemporary road systems as symbols of the convergence between humanity’s unconscious desires and its technological artifacts. Cronenberg’s film, like Ballard’s novel, is an exploration of the ambiguous fascination and excitement of the car crash and the latent identity of the machine. This exploration, in the film and the novel, reexamines the contentions of some basic genres. It is a “road film” in the sense that it is an eccentric examination of the cult of adventure, journey, and discovery that has animated that form. Ballard is British and Cronenberg Canadian, but Crash seems peculiarly American since its narrative deals with the exhaustion of the civilizing process and the final expenditures of the horizontal, forward-moving momentum that drove this enterprise. It is energy incipient to the western, the biker film, and all manner of male-oriented identity that affirms the potency of a burgeoning society. In Crash, the traditional journey of discovery becomes a downward spiral, a frustrated, ever-circling implosion of the defeated bourgeois self at the end of the millennium.


Ambivalent Attitude Death Drive Motion Picture Industry Repetition Compulsion Distant Triad 
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  1. 1.
    Alexander Walker, in The London Evening Standard (June 3, 1996), describes the film as containing “some of the most perverted acts and theories of sexual deviance I have ever seen propagated in mainstream cinema.” In the November 9 issue of the 1996 Daily Mail, critic Christopher Tookey added his voice to the outrage, declaring that Cronenberg’s film promulgates “the morality of the satyr, the nymphomaniac, the rapist, the pedophile, the danger to society,” and marks “the point at which even a liberal society should draw the line.” As evidence of the director’s allegedly perverted morality, the reader’s attention is drawn to the fact that “the initially heterosexual characters lose their inhibitions [and] they experiment pleasurably with gay sex, lesbian sex, and sex with cripples.”Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Mikita Brottman 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikita Brottman
  • Christopher Sharrett

There are no affiliations available

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