In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Infinity Pool, we talk about themes that help us understand the film.
- James Foster – Alexander Skarsgård
- Em Foster – Cleopatra Coleman
- Gabi Bauer – Mia Goth
- Alban Bauer – Jalil Lespert
- Jennifer – Amanda Brugel
- Bex – Caroline Boulton
- Charles – Jeffrey Ricketts
- Dr. Bob Modan – John Ralston
- Detective Thresh – Thomas Kretschmann
- Written by – Brandon Cronenberg
- Directed by – Brandon Cronenberg
The themes and meaning of Infinity Pool
Ego death and Rebirth
At the beginning of Infinity Pool, James Foster is in a funk. He’s wealthy but only because he married rich. His identity as an author is a fake one because his one book had little impact and he hasn’t been able to write anything else. He’s at an overall point of emptiness and stagnation.
This is a familiar story. Gravity, Eat Pray Love, Fight Club, Groundhog Day, Stalker, Lost in Translation, Chef, American Beauty are all movies that find unique ways to explore the idea of stagnation and the search for a way through and past it. Sometimes that story is grounded, realistic. Other times, it’s defamiliarized. Infinity Pool takes that latter approach.
James is so fascinated by the cloning process because it’s a kind of Ego death. This version of him that’s associated with wrongdoing is “extracted”, presented, and executed. You can imagine him seeing that other him as everything that he’s been that he’s disliked. His weaknesses, his failures, his inhibitions. That’s why in the aftermath of the first execution he begins to distance from Em and attach him to Gabi and Alban. Em represents everything he had been. The sum of all his defeats. While Gabi and Alban represent progress and rebirth, the lack of inhibition.
That’s why the next part of Infinity Pool is more bohemian and libertine. James is much more primal. Lo and behold, Gabi then has him confront an actual primal version of himself. A new clone that’s completely feral. This confrontation between “the man” and “the beast” is made quite literal but it’s something that a grounded movie would demonstrate through, say, a character having to deal with addiction issues or face a fear of public speaking or something that demonstrates overcoming an internal fear/weakness/conflict. Movies that defamiliarize, that lean into the surreal, can get away with making that internal confrontation much more explicit.
After James defeats James, Gabi breastfeeds him. A grounded movie might just have dialogue where the character says, “I feel reborn.” Infinity Pool goes the much more symbolic route of showing James infantilized. By breastfeeding, he’s acting as if he were a newborn. Fresh from the womb. This completes the journey of rebirth that James began with the first cloning and execution. It wasn’t enough to simply witness the thing. He had to be the one to do it. Only then is he made new.
Everything that happens in the story is part of this process of driving James to a point of this climactic confrontation and the reincarnation that follows.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more themes you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Infinity Pool? Leave your comments below and we’ll consider updating the guide.