Thursday, 20 October 2011

Shapeshifters Film Review 6: Vincenzo Natali’s Splice (2009)

 Fig. 1. Splice Poster
Vincenzo Natali’s Splice contains a whole range of different themes in a film that is in itself about a controversial topic, playing god with science. Splice is about a couple (Clive and Elsa) who are quite capable genetic scientists working at a biotech laboratory that are trying to change the world by using genetic splicing techniques. Their first creation is a mixture of many animals that generally looks like a blobby fat worm but whose cells can create a new strain of livestock feed. This however doesn’t satisfy their scientific hunger and they soon turn to human DNA splicing which is on the illegal agenda. This film explores themes of morality, curiosity, abortion, parenting, sexual desire, and the general issue of humanism.

“Splice is as much of a cautionary tale about people having kids before they're ready as it is a time-worn tale of scientists playing God.” (Vejvoda, 2010)
 Fig. 2. Elsa Holding Dren

Even though the film is about this amazing feat of scientific knowledge and creation giving birth to a hybrid spliced human that’s almost alien, the underlying plot is still as emotionally human as you can get. It focuses on the mother-daughter relationship between Dren and Elsa, whose past is as troubling as the ethics behind the whole experiment.

“She has absolutely zero interest in children, and this is partly due to the way that her own mother treated her on the creepy old farmstead; nothing is made absolutely clear, though obviously Elsa's neat, techno-urban childless life is deliberately the farthest thing imaginable from the ugly, painful chaos of her rural upbringing.” (Bradshaw, 2010)

Since Elsa’s past with her mother left her a bit psychologically scarred forces her to be very forceful in life and determined to the point of breaking boundaries. She doesn’t want kids but her desire to create this new being is so strong it can be suggested that on a subconscious level she wants to have a child; but not out of maternal instinct but more out of the want for revenge, to be better than her mother. Also the addition of Clive into the mix complicates matters of the family, at first he is completely against the birth of Dren even wanting her to be aborted but later as she grows he becomes more fond of her while it’s the exact opposite for Elsa who becomes cold and strict with Dren. This can be a sign of sexual desire and jealousy amongst the three as it evolves into a mixed genre of love and science. Finally Clive realises that Dren is no mere hybrid from an anonymous woman’s DNA but from Elsa herself.
 Fig. 3. The Dance

“Still, for Elsa, Dren is no mere experiment: she’s a test-tube baby, one that comes with the emotional and psychological weight of an in-utero conception. And the bigger Dren gets — she soon grows arms that hug Elsa tight — the deeper the bond between the two and the greater the trouble for Elsa and Clive.” (Dargis, 2010)

In conclusion the film pushes the boundaries of parenting and science in a new way that’s disturbing but interesting nonetheless. There’s a lot to carry away after watching Splice with mixed thoughts, especially after you see Elsa pregnant with the baby of the Dren-turned-man hybrid.
 Fig. 4. Oh no, she is a man

Vejvoda, J. (2010) IGN Movies At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Bradshaw, P. (2010) The Guardian At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Dargis, M. (2010) The New York Times At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Natali, Vincenzo (2009) Splice Poster At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 2. Elsa Holding Dren (2009) From: Splice Directed by: Vincenzo Natali [film still] Canada: Gaumont At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 3. The Dance (2009) From: Splice Directed by: Vincenzo Natali [film still] Canada: Gaumont At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 4. Oh no, she is a man (2009) From: Splice Directed by: Vincenzo Natali [film still] Canada: Gaumont At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

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