Analysis: “Cosmopolis”

This post concentrates on the David Cronenberg film, Cosmopolis, while reflecting on the novel of same title by Don DeLillo. Although we have seen some of Cronenberg’s earlier works, such as Videodrome (1983), Crash (1996), and eXistenZ (1999), his 2012 film, Cosmopolis, is the most masterful of the bunch. Although we disagree with his personal existential perspective, which essentially denies an unseen higher reality, it is a perspective that suits him as an artist communicating provocative perceptions of the world through portrayals of physicality that weave humans together with non-living objects in a way that displays life within the lifeless and gives life-forms a haunted and somewhat zombie-like quality while begging the questions: What is Life? What is Death? 

We see Cronenberg’s intersectioning and juxtapositioning of aliveness and deadness as an inescapable extension of his “non-believer” philosophy—his lack of religiosity, which he has stated in, for example, an Esquire magazine interview. If Cronenberg were to immerse himself in our NoetiTaoism™, and new science principles, he would find that consciousness does not end with the death of an organism, and that the mystery of the integration of organic and inorganic resides in the deathless infinite Consciousness that permeates Omniverse. His productions indicate that he has been intuiting this truth vaguely and expressing it darkly—through a redefinition of horror and science fiction genres reliant on audiences lacking spiritual illumination for impact—as a pathway to personal metaphysical discovery. His impulse is “religious,” in the truest sense of the word. 

Cosmopolis, the 2003 novel, which serves as a warning against free-market global capitalism, can almost be seen as an occult work, a story that might have taken shape around glimpses of the future seen in a crystal ball. Set in April of 2000, it seems to have predicted the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the Occupy Movement—the end of an economic era. 

In our analysis, Cosmopolis is a story told by money itself, by the Spirit of Mammon, which uses the screenplay to boast that not only is money information—a fact made clearer by computer technology—but that a person, such as the young protagonist Wall Street billionaire Eric Packer, can merge his mind with market information to the point that he becomes one with the money. And when Mammon becomes inseparable from a host, it feeds like a voracious parasite bent on fulfilling its own world-domination agenda. Whatever happens to Packer happens to the financial markets, and whatever happens in the marketplace happens within Packer’s mind and emotions, and even his body. 

The asymmetry of Mammon’s strength and vitality becomes manifest first in Eric’s misshapen prostate gland and is later reflected in his lopsided haircut. Multinational and morally neutral, Mammon has the constant urge to merge; it is polyamorous—loyal to none, just as Packer himself has no qualms about continuing to indulge in serial sexual encounters despite his recent marriage. And as Eric is an organic (“meat space”) bodily extension of Mammon, his limousine—outfitted with the various time-subsuming cyber-space devices of his asset manager function—is the inorganic hard-shell extension of Packer that carries him through the city. As such, the car is a character indispensable to the tale. 

As the story moves toward its climax, Packer instinctively fights to free himself from the ever-hungering ancient beast, to declare his freedom from plush bondage by unconsciously attempting to make the monster fuel its own demise, but this shape-shifter parasite is aligned with a primal force of Nature and it refuses to leave a thoroughly infected symbiotic host while the host is still alive.

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2 Responses to “Analysis: “Cosmopolis””

  1. Stark Raven Says:

    I saw the movie and found the ending disappointing. I have heard that the book ends differently. What was Cronenberg thinking? I haven’t found any article or interview where he explains the cliffhanger.

  2. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Actually, the movie’s ending is a perfect depiction of the book’s ending—accurate, potent, and not a cliffhanger. Turn the last text-filled page of the novel and the next page is blank. Cronenberg’s intention seems clear: to bring his audience into a position of empathy with Packer (as DeLillo achieved) to the point that the audience never hears the gunshot but instead, like Packer, experiences only silent darkness. This abrupt termination of consciousness is consistent with Cronenberg’s philosophy regarding death. Benno kills Packer; Cronenberg kills his audience.

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