SPIDER

Cobwebs of the Mind

Content -3
Quality
None Light Moderate Heavy
Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: December 01, 2002

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda
Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, and
Lynn Redgrave

Genre: Drama

Audience: Adults

Rating: R

Runtime: 98 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Director: David Cronenberg

Executive Producer:

Producer: David Cronenberg, Samuel
Hadida and Catherine Bailey

Writer: Patrick McGrath

Address Comments To:

Michael Barker, Tom Bernard & Marcie Bloom
Co-Presidents
Sony Pictures Classics
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com

Content:

(PaPa, L, VVV, SS, NN, A, D, MM) Pagan worldview of a mentally-disturbed man struggling to understand his damaged psyche and the consequences of his actions; nine obscenities (including five “f-words”); brutal murder of woman using a shovel (much blood), man cuts hands on broken glass, and father slaps son; boy, running away from home, exposed to brief nudity by prostitute, and finds father fornicating with a prostitute, and man shown with his hand in crotch; brief nudity of man’s side while bathing, women nude in photos, women wearing nightgowns, and some cleavage; alcohol use; smoking; and, stealing, lying, tense scene as man considers attacking sleeping woman with hammer and tools, and the hopelessness of mental patients, whether incarcerated or free, is a primary theme.

Summary:

SPIDER is a depressing, meandering, unfulfilling movie about the mentally ill that is great at raising issues and questions but short on answers. Ralph [“Rafe”] Fiennes [“Fine”] plays a possibly violent schizophrenic prematurely released from the hospital.

Review:

SPIDER is the nickname of former mental patient Dennis Cleg, remarkably played by Ralph (Rafe) Fiennes (Fine). The story opens as Spider moves to a boarding house for former patients and increased freedom in his old neighborhood. His return to society is set in the present but the drab and dreariness of old London makes the story feel much older. Walking through the familiar surroundings of his youth, Spider’s reality is sharply altered by flashbacks from his childhood. His memories, both real and imagined, collide with real events and manage to confuse Spider and the audience. He struggles to understand the events which took place years earlier and which may or may not have led to his incarceration. Certainly, this confusion is intentional. Evidently, the writer’s desire is to give the audience a small taste of the incomplete and distorted thought processes of the mentally unstable, but the overt audience manipulation is not reason enough to see this movie. Sadly, there are no answers offered and no hope suggested for the mentally-challenged members of our society.

SPIDER wanders through the old city, revisiting warm memories and painful experiences of years before as a bystander would watch a scene played out around him. He is, at first, detached but slowly becomes more actively involved as a participant in his memories. Family scenes are spied upon through a kitchen window, then Spider (as an adult) stands in his dining room as he watches the interaction between his caring parents and himself as a child. His father, played by Gabriel Byrne, is portrayed as a man who has a propensity to spend more time at the local pub than at home with his family. Through Spider’s eyes, his father is shown to be a womanizer, adulterer and brutal murderer of his suspicious wife. Young Spider misses his mother terribly and despises the local prostitute his father has brought home to replace her. He carefully plots to take action against this stranger and possibly his father, too. Meanwhile, the adult Spider begins to see this prostitute in his current day experiences, and the audience quickly realizes that Spider’s perspective is not to be trusted. Unfortunately, it is the only perspective the story offers.

Eventually, SPIDER recalls how he tied a long string (one of his spider web strands) to the gas stove in his family’s home. He remembers waiting until his father and the strange woman are home and resting, then he carefully pulls at the string and releases the deadly gas into the house. Once he sees the woman’s dead body, he learns that it is his loving mother who has died and not some prostitute he has imagined. Whether he realizes this truth in his adult recollections or as a child can be debated by the few remaining audience members who cared enough to endure this long ordeal of a movie.

SPIDER is depressing beyond description. As an insider’s view of mental illness, SPIDER is great at raising issues and questions but short on answers. SPIDER’s novelist and screenwriter, Patrick McGrath, was raised on the grounds of Britain’s largest institution for the criminally insane and his familiarity with the subject matter shows. His attention to detail, while initially promising, fades as the audience cares less about the main character. The movie is only 98 minutes long but it feels well over two hours. The story sputters through overdrawn anguish and a clunky conclusion which the audience must suffer. SPIDER’s recollections, remember, are seen through the distorted perspective of a troubled schizophrenic. The audience is bound to be somewhat sympathetic with the protagonist in SPIDER, but viewers soon realize that the credibility of this tale is seriously in question. The pace is meandering, the flashbacks are misleading, and the story’s resolution is as stark and unfulfilling as a visit to a mental hospital.

SPIDER offers no joy, no hope and no solutions for the disturbed individuals in our society other than locking them away . . . out of sight and out of mind. As Christians, serious thought and sympathy should be given to the plight of mental patients. They may be the forgotten and the unseen in our society, yet Jesus died for them, too.

In Brief:

SPIDER is the nickname of former mental patient Dennis Cleg, remarkably played by Ralph (“Rafe”) Fiennes (“Fine”). Spider moves to a boarding house in his old neighborhood and sets out to explore the events leading to his incarceration. Walking through familiar surroundings of his youth, Spider’s reality is altered by childhood flashbacks. His memories, both real and imagined, collide with real events, confusing Spider and the audience. This confusion seems intentional. Apparently, the writer’s desire is to give the audience a small taste of the distorted thought processes of the mentally unstable.



SPIDER is depressing beyond description. As an insider’s view of mental illness, SPIDER is great at raising questions but short on answers. The audience is bound to be sympathetic with Spider, but viewers soon realize the credibility of this tale is seriously in question. SPIDER offers no joy, no hope and no solutions for the disturbed individuals in our society other than locking them away . . . out of sight and out of mind. As Christians, serious thought and sympathy should be given to the plight of mental patients. They may be the forgotten and the unseen in our society, yet Jesus died for them, too.