There are moments, early on, in Infinity Pool where the score (brilliantly written by Tim Hecker) shifts into these discordant, disturbing notes while the camera pans across these beautiful locations along the beach and vacation paradise of the fictional state of Li Tolqa and your stomach turns and your skins prickles because you know something isn’t right here.
But you don’t have to wait long to find out what’s wrong. And once things take a turn, they continue their downward spiral as you rush, breathless and dizzy to the conclusion.
Infinity Pool follows a married couple—James and Em Foster (played by Alexander Skarsgard and Cleopatra Coleman)—as they travel to a tropical resort set inside an impoverished foreign country. James is a writer who has struggled to write a second novel after the failure of his first six years previous. He hopes this trip will reinvigorate his creativity, maybe his marriage and possibly his self. Once there, they meet another couple who come over uncomfortably strong and friendly. After spending the evening with them, they convince the Fosters to sneak out of the compound the next day and travel the countryside. Putting aside better judgment, they agree. After a day of eating and drinking (amongst other things) on the beach, they drive home in the dark.
And things go wrong.
Without spoiling anything further in the movie, they come in contact with the justice system on the island—where things are very Old Testament. But the tourism board has implemented a policy that allows rich tourists to substitute punishment directly in favor of a by proxy punishment. And that lack of accountability and consequence spirals the movie out of control.
Penduluming between scenic views and lush landscapes to hypnotic, colorful, drug-fueled trips at a faster and faster pace, Infinity Pool is hypnotic and unsettling. The film constantly pushes the boundaries of excess and content and sanity, while managing to walk the fine line between horror and exploitation. There were quite a few parts where I steeled myself for a turn too far that disconnected me from the movie, but they never came. In fact, each turn and twist and boundary pushed, drew me further into the movie.
Brandon Cronenberg returns to the Sundance Film Festival after bringing 2020’s Possessor to the festival. There’s an incredible confidence and control that he brings with his directing to Infinity Pool. Everything feels precise and measured in a way that elicits brilliance instead of sterility. He moves the camera carefully through the scenes, ratcheting up anxiety and tension even in the most common of scenes.
The cast does an incredible job but Mia Goth’s performance is a stand out. Really taking the horror world by storm with X and Pearl in the last year, Goth’s unusual look and incredible presence mesmerize you in this film. She, like the film, moves from sexy and alluring to unhinged and terrifying as time goes on. Like James Foster, we fall under her spell early on and find ourselves mired in extremity before we realize it.
As the film progresses, characters adorn themselves in horrific masks worn by the resort’s local band. They use these masks to hide their identities as they indulge their passions and impulses—using the local customs and traditions to hide their true intentions and feel like it’s a persona they’re wearing. In the film’s most haunting visual sequence, Cronenberg plays with the idea that the masks aren’t superficial, but bone deep. That as we enforce the idea that the rich have no consequences for their actions, we create the monsters that terrorize us.
Basically, Infinity Pool is the best season of White Lotus yet.
And while the ultimate end of the film feels perhaps too clean and safe for the unhinged and harrowing rest of the film, it still leaves us in a place of deep dread, uncertainty and hypnotic confusion. This is the film I’ll be talking about for a long time from the festival.