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Sometime in the future, the Canadian Academy for Erotic Inquiry is investigating the theories of parapsychologist Luther Stringfellow. Seven young adults volunteer to submit to a form of brain surgery that removes their power of speech but increases their power for telepathic communication. An unseen group of students observes the results. As the experiment progresses, Stringfellow's theories come to fruition. Later, aphrodisiacs and various other drugs are introduced to the subjects to expose an inherent polymorphous perversity. In the end, they are isolated from each other, provoking antagonism and violence between them, which results in two suicides. Written by
Daeha Ko <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although intriguing, ultimately feels like struggling to stay awake in a University lecture
Although he is better known for his 'body horror' work and scenes of squirm-inducing gore, the most prominent theme that runs throughout the career of David Cronenberg is the idea of finding an extra stream of consciousness through sexual release. From his serial-raping zombies in Shivers (1975), to his portrayal of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabrina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method (2011), he has adopted a psychoanalytical aesthetic between scenes of exploding heads and killer tots. His début, Stereo, is his student film that is an early reflection of his fascination with psychology, made on an obviously shoe-stringed budget, shot in one location.
The film begins with the arrival at what looks like a research facility of a man wearing a black coat. As the narration begins to explain, the man is a telepath, a product of a social experiment to observe behavioural patterns between three telepaths in a closed environment. Having had their ability to speak removed, they must communicate only via telepathy, and through this telepathic bonding, begin sexual experimentation. The experiment is being carried out by the unseen Dr. Luther Stringfellow, who hopes that the powerful relationships which are forged through the telepaths - that evolve to deem such things as sex or physical attraction irrelevant - will come to replace and stabilise the traditional family unit.
If you could label Stereo as anything, it would have to be ambitious. Although the subject is purely psychoanalytical, the approach is very sci-fi. The film is black-and-white, featuring no sound at all apart from the near-constant narration, which is spoken in the same dreary tone as you would expect from a student vocalising an essay. It's quite clear than Cronenberg was held back by budget constraints and equipment, and although you could forgive the film's narrative flaws, the lack of visual appeal combined with the monotonous, jargon-heavy, quasi- intellectual narration, make the film a struggle to get through, even at only 62 minutes. It would be harsh to say Stereo is for Cronenberg die- hard's only as it is often intriguing, but the film ultimately feels like struggling to stay awake during a University lecture.
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