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Stereo

[…] With its main theme of social cybernetics, Cronenberg seeks to blur the distinction between the physical and psychological in science as well as the distinction between the free and the manipulated personality.

[…] What is at stake in telepathy, here, is nothing but a subtle analysis of the relationship between the social and the virtual. It would be completely legitimate to read «Stereo» as a precursor to the typical problems that affect our digital generation.

Stereo (1969) is a journey into the history of Cronenberg’s world. All of his thematics and obsessions are present in this experimental faux-documentary that guarantees the viewer an unforgettable experience. In a futuristic setting, the Canadian Academy of Erotic Inquiry investigates the consequences telepathy can have in sexual relationships. The absence of sound in the film reinforces the scenario in which man is reduced to the status of a Guinea pig throughout this scientific experiment. Cronenberg explores the dark side of science with both a serious and a parodic touch, thanks to the several unexpressive voice-overs that accompany the entire film. The dialectic of observer and subject, the power relationship in eroticism and sexuality, and the complex layers between the individual and the social are all charged with the force of filmic dramaturgy. A dramaturgy that is dominated by architecture: the global architecture clearly relates to Science itself, whereas the varied camera perspectives of the building help to express the diverse psychological and social situations of the subjects. Through the editing, an intriguing dialogue is established between the observed reality and the subjects’ projections, which describe the two faces of “social cybernetics”: the social mechanism and the virtual society. With its main theme of social cybernetics, Cronenberg seeks to blur the distinction between the physical and psychological in science as well as the distinction between the free and the manipulated personality. More than the plea for a polymorphous sexuality – which loses control in the final part of the film, as does the experiment itself – the theme of telepathy reveals itself to still be quite interesting in the end. What is at stake in telepathy, here, is nothing but a subtle analysis of the relationship between the social and the virtual. It would be completely legitimate to read Stereo as a precursor to the typical problems that affect our digital generation. Where is the boundary between communication and imagination? And the boundary between imagined communication and communicated imagination? This is a territory in which the paranormal seems to be the standard, where experience must be experimental, where the social cybernetics of Stereo still has something to say – not only for Cronenberg’s fans.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore

First published: May 05, 2016

Stereo | Film | David Cronenberg | CAN 1969 | 65’

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