NARRATOR: Scene 35. Exterior. Cleg House. Backyard. Night.
The camera adopts a subjective point of view as a hand enters the shot, lower frame right, to draw the curtain aside. Revealed within, like lifting a veil of memory, is a flashback into Spider’s childhood. The camera bears witness to events by positioning Spider twice within a frame, so that we see the same person simultaneously remember, observe, and manipulate his past. But Spider’s memory of viewing – like all memories –does not always present a reliable version of the truth.
MRS. CLEG: What are you doing?
BOY SPIDER: Making something.
SPIDER: [MUMBLES] Making something.
DAVID CRONENBERG: Wait, the curtains are moving, so let them settle.
You are in Spider’s head when you’re watching the movie. It’s definitely a subjective film. It has scenes of adult Spider being in the same room as the young Spider in his memory. It’s a very visual, cinematic way of delivering the effect of memory and how we return to it and how we live in it, but almost as an observer. There are many wonderful connections with Freud and Freud’s theories of memory and how we are observers to our own past, as well as participants at the same time.
CREW MEMBER: Roll it.
CREW MEMBER: Rolling. Everybody quiet, please.
DAVID CRONENBERG: Action!
MRS. CLEG: You’re so good with your hands.
BOY SPIDER: It’s for you.
SPIDER: For you… It’s for you…
RALPH FIENNES: I think he had a very close relationship with his mother. As he grew up and became sexually aware of himself and then from there, sexually aware of other people’s sexuality, specifically his mother’s, this is what started to turn him inside out. You know, the idea that he had this close, innocent relationship with his mother, then it has become corrupted, and this awareness of sexuality has been as it were the engine for his imagination.
DAVID CRONENBERG: Bradley, lean against that side for a second. I want to see what that looks like.
Hmm. That has a charm to it.
PATRICK MCGRATH: Miranda Richardson is two women, both of whom are, to a large extent, projections of a small boy who cannot really do other than see women as either angels or whores.
DAVID CRONENBERG: O.K. Actors acting!
MRS. CLEG: I’m going out, Spider.
PATRICK MCGRATH: Spider at a certain stage begins to recognize that his mother has an existence with his father that he has no knowledge of, that he can’t get any access to. They have a sexual relationship, they have an adult relationship, which creates a great many problems in the discord and psyche of this little boy.
DAVID CRONENBERG: Cut.
BRADLEY HALL: Walter, the take’s spic and span!
PATRICK MCGRATH: As a result, he begins to transform in his own eyes, his mother from this perfect ministering angel into this great rampant, blowsy hooker.
RALPH FIENNES: He’s been in an institution for most of his life. Since he’s been a boy of ten or eleven. And in that time, I think, what he’s remembered has become embellished and expanded.
The boy is there?
DAVID CRONENBERG: Can you see him?
CREW MEMBER: Do you see him?
RALPH FIENNES: I can’t see him.
DAVID CRONENBERG: O.K., we should put him where he could be seen.
RALPH FIENNES: It’s all rooted in something terrible. He’s done something terrible. And I think in order to not face that, he’s had to create this other unhappy childhood to protect himself. He’s the victim. He’s trying to repress something appalling that was done to his mother. But what was done to his mother isn’t quite what Spider’s created.
DAVID CRONENBERG: “Ahh!!!” Like that? Something like that? Can you do that? I mean, really saying it, not like… But, you know, really… Really, shriek it out. Don’t hold back. Let’s see what you got.
BOY SPIDER: Murderer!
CREW MEMBER: Cut!
CREW MEMBER: Alright, so, John can you do me a favour and put that chair…
CAROLYN ZEIFMAN: Why don’t you try one, David?
DAVID CRONENBERG: “Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!” Not as good as Bradley.
One of the things that drew me to the project is the old Hollywood idea of identifying with the lead character. The difference between the Hollywood version of that and my version of that is that it’s a strange internal metaphorical identification. In other words, my background is not like Spider. I don’t live like Spider. I’ve never been in prison. Nonetheless, there’s something very universal about Spider. It’s the old 20th century alienation. The difficulty of creating yourself as a human being in society. To illuminate what is universal, you have to have a character often that pushes to extremes.
CREW MEMBER: And roll it.
CREW MEMBER: Rolling.
PATRICK MCGRATH: It seems to me that Spider’s experience is not unusual. One of the points one can make with a film like this is the suggestion that this could be any of us. That there is no moral responsibility or guilt associated with spiraling out into psychotic territory in the way that Spider does. It is well within the realms of human experience that this sort of illness or disorder would take a perfectly ordinary childhood as Spider has and turn it into this nightmare world of paranoia and violence and twisted sexuality.
BILL CLEG: Help me, someone! Please for God’s sake, help me! You did this! You did in your mum!
PATRICK MCGRATH: So we’re not describing some fantastic scenario with some bizarre creature from some alien world here. We’re talking about a human being who has had the appalling misfortune to become severely disturbed by a very common mental illness.
CREW MEMBER: Cut! Cut it please.
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