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The End of the Road

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Ambivalent Attitude Death Drive Motion Picture Industry Repetition Compulsion Distant Triad 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  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
  2. 4.
    Roy Grundmann, “Plight of the Crash Fest Mummies: David Cronenberg’s Crash,” Cineaste 22:4, March 1997, 24–27. Grundmann points out that the sexual encounters featured in Crash “challenge notions of who has sex with whom, in what kind of environment, in what manner, and for what purpose.”Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    David Pringle, J. G. Ballard: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1994), xxix.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier 1600–1860 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 10.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Brooks Adams, The Law of Civilization and Decay (New York: Sonnenschein &Co., 1895), viii.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    J. G. Ballard, Crash (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1973), 12.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    See Henry Murray et al., Explorations in Personality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mikita Brottman 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikita Brottman
  • Christopher Sharrett

There are no affiliations available

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