Thursday, July 20, 2023

I Go Swimming

Film: Infinity Pool
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A friend of mine is a librarian who has many similar tastes in movies. She likes a good horror movie, and while she doesn’t really mind gore that much, she’s also not a fan of gratuitous gore. I tend to go to some darker and harsher places than she does when it comes to what I will watch, but her son Tom doesn’t merely go to those darker places but seeks them out. Tom enjoyed Infinity Pool and told his mom that it wouldn’t be her tastes. Having now seen it, I agree with Tom’s assessment. This is not an easy watch for a number of reasons.

We can start with the subject matter. Infinity Pool is very clearly about hedonism, and the sort of destructive hedonism of conspicuous and malicious consumption that is the privilege of the top 1% of the top 1%. It’s been said that if the penalty for a crime is a fine, then it is only a crime for the poor. Infinity Pool gives us a world where this is potentially true of every crime—where there may be no limit to the dark pleasures someone can engage in if they have the money to do so.

Secondarily, but of no less importance for some people, Infinity Pool should probably come with a seizure warning. There are a number of moments in the film that could well be seizure-inducing for someone prone to epilepsy. This seems to be a theme for director Brandon Croneneberg, who had similar visuals in Possessor.

Author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Colman) are vacationing at a tropical resort in the country of Li Tolqa near the end of their season. We learn quickly that Li Tolqa is the sort of place where the resort is decadent and safe, but everywhere outside of the resort is incredibly dangerous, especially to wealthy tourists. One day on their trip, James and Em encounter Gabi (Mia Goth) and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert), who are frequent visitors to Li Tolqa. They convince the Fosters to join them on an excursion outside of the resort. On the way back, James strikes a local with their borrowed car, killing him.

We soon find that the system of justice in Li Tolqa is both brutal and unique. The penalty for his crime is that James is to be put to death by the oldest son of the man that he killed. However, because of the need for tourist dollars and the possible scandal of killing their guests, Li Tolqa has created a unique form of justice. For enough money, you can have a clone created who is then killed in your stead, under the condition that you watch the execution. So that happens, ane while Em is traumatized, James seems to have something awakened in him.

From this point forward, the story is that of James. While Em naturally wants to leave immediately, he hides his passport, pretending that he lost it. He is invited into the circle of friends of Gabi and Alban who all have something in common—each of them has been convicted of a capital offense in Li Tolqa and has watched their clone be executed in front of them. Slowly, James realizes that this group of people are extreme hedonists. Their yearly trips to Li Tolqa become exercises in commit terrible crimes among the local populace so that they can watch their own clones being executed again and again. Money, after all, pays for everything, even when it’s paying for the occasional homicide of a local.

This is the central argument of Infinity Pool. In a world where money seems to make anything available, is there any actual limit to what it can buy? Would enough money allow you to break any law or commit any crime? Can you stay out of prison after committing treason if you have enough money? Is there a limit to what our urges should allow us to pursue?

Infinity Pool asks a lot of questions that it really doesn’t want to answer, and that it shouldn’t really answer. To get us there, though, we’re going to get some uncomfortable and surreal sex scenes with full-frontal male and female nudity shot through a psychedelic lens. If you are prone to epilepsy or seizures, these are going to be tough scenes to watch, but for what it’s worth, you might be better off without them.

Infinity Pool does bring up an important issue for me, though, and that issue is named Mia Goth. She seems to be the flavor of the month in the horror world right now, and I’m not sure why. I don’t desperately dislike Mia Goth, but I also don’t really find her all that appealing. But, her evident willingness to do full-frontal clearly makes her the go-to for a lot of films right now, so I guess we’re stuck with her.

Infinity Pool, oddly, reminded me of Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. It has the same sort of themes at work here, hedonism at the expense of anything and everything, and a complete and utter callousness because of the goal of personal pleasure. There’s just a lot less shit eating.

Why to watch Infinity Pool: There may be no bottom to the pit of human depravity.
Why not to watch: The closest cinematic adjunct might be Salo.


  1. I do want to see this. I've heard really fucked up things about it and the fact that it played on my multiplex for a brief period at the time I took my mother to see Everything Everywhere All at Once (which she thought was alright) is really weird.

    1. If the spiritual comparison to Salo doesn't get you to weird, I don't know what will.

    2. I have seen and survived Salo. I can definitely handle this though I'm still traumatized by what I have seen from Salo.

    3. This doesn't have the ick factor of Salo, but it's spiritually the same.

  2. I've never been able to sit through Salo so I can't compare, but this was such a wild movie. I can still hear Mia Goth yelling Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaames.

    1. Right? This is tamer than Salo in terms of what is on the screen, but the attitude is exactly the same. This is a movie that wants to shine a light on sort of destructive hedonism.