I’d always planned to read the book <i>Crash</i> (1973) by J. G. Ballard and then watch the movie directed by David Cronenberg. Finally this year, driven by a heightened sense of desire to see more Cronenberg movies, I read the book, an original, mind altered story that inspired the equally unique movie Crash (1996).
For a movie like this you of course have to get James Spader.
It all begins really with a car crash. James Ballard (James Spader) is in a head on car crash that results in the death of the man in the other car. Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), the wife of the dead man is also hurt badly. There is a connection made between Ballard and the wife as her husband bleeds out.
While in the hospital Ballard meets Vaughn (Elias Koteas) who is fascinated with the braces holding Ballard’s shattered leg together. He takes pictures of Ballard’s leg. As we get to know Vaughn better we find out he takes pictures of car crashes, driving around the city in his Lincoln convertible which becomes more and more battered each time we see it, and listening to the scanner for car crashes that he can race to go see. He explains that he is interested in the <b>"reshaping of the human body by modern technology",</b> but it is much more than that. He is a fetishist, a sexual deviant who becomes aroused over not just car crashes, but the wounds inflicted on the victims. He also has what can only be thought of as a death wish as he recreates, with the help of fellow car crash fans, celebrity car crashes.
Ballard and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) are in an open marriage. Their sexual relationship is apathetic at best until they start sharing with each other their conquests outside of their marriage. They both become caught up in Vaughn’s obsession with car crashes. At one point Ballard drives Vaughn’s Lincoln convertible around while Vaughn picks up hookers to have sex with in the back seat. This takes a more personal turn when Vaughn has sex with Catherine while Ballard drives them around. Vaughn is rough with Catherine leaving her bruised and battered. She has fear in her eyes possibly for the first time thinking that they have went further than she is comfortable with.
Ballard has sex with the beautiful Gabrielle (Rosanne Arquette) who wears heavy braces on both her legs. Despite the heavy scarring on her body or maybe because of it she is more attractive than she was before her accident. Her scars, to these men and women, enhance her sexual allure.
The sex scenes in the movie are graphic and at times disturbing. Most of the sex takes place in cars as the characters are more aroused in a car. It is quite the merry-go-round of sexual partners. As Ballard becomes more obsessed with the car crash perversions, he also becomes more obsessed with Vaughn. Soon he is fantasizing about having sex with him. Vaughn is game, especially with all those car crash scars on Ballard’s leg for him to caress.
I would recommend reading the book and then watching the movie. Both are excellent, disturbing, horrifying; and yet, somehow by the end, what seems perverse and dangerous becomes more acceptable. To think of these obsessions as reasonable adds to the dread and left this movie watcher shaken.