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The only thing worse than losing your mind... is finding it again. 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Based on a novel by Patrick McGrath, Spider stars Ralph Fiennes as Dennis Cleg, A.K.A Spider, a schizophrenic released from a mental institution back into the community. We follow him as he takes up lodgings at a halfway house run by Mrs Wilkinson (Redgrave) in his old neighbourhood. Through flashbacks we catch up on his past - his dysfunctional relationship with his abusive father Bill (Byrne), his mother (Richardson), and his obsessive belief that his father murdered his mother so he could be with a prostitute.

We see everything through Spider’s eyes, but he is not a reliable witness, so traumatised is he by the past. The film jumps around Spider’s subjective mind, through the various layers of reality, experience and fantasy. This is because this is all Spider has, wandering, lost and sad, through his memories towards a breakdown. Fiennes gives a wonderful performance, mumbling and stammering through much of the film, then exploding into life as his memories become frighteningly real. Some might say he is a little over the top, but he is consistent and affords charisma to a difficult character. He is well supported by Byrne and Richardson, Byrne as the menacing father, whilst Richardson is outstanding as both Spider’s mother and the prostitute whom his father takes up with, in a wonderful visualisation of Spider’s uncertain mind.

Cronenberg’s distinctive direction style generates a creepy atmosphere, and with claustrophobic camerawork and muted colours, this is a sombre, intense psychological drama not to be missed.

Patrick McMurphy

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Summer Term (35mm)