Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Cronenberg|
|Produced by||David Cronenberg|
|Screenplay by||Patrick McGrath|
by Patrick McGrath
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Edited by||Ronald Sanders|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Box office||$5.8 million|
The film premiered at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and enjoyed some media buzz; however, it was released in only a few cinemas at the year's end by distributor Sony Pictures Classics. Nonetheless, the film enjoyed much acclaim by critics and especially by Cronenberg enthusiasts. The film garnered a Best Director Award at the Canadian Genie Awards. The stars of the film, Ralph Fiennes and particularly Miranda Richardson, received several awards for their work in the film.
Spider is the story of Dennis Cleg, a man who is given a room in a halfway house catering to mentally disturbed people. Cleg has just been released from a mental institution and in his new abode starts piecing together or recreating in his memory an apparently fateful childhood event.
He roams the nearby derelict urban area and the local canal, and starts to relive or visualise a period of his childhood in 1950s London with his mother and father. A shift takes place in the child's psyche when he witnesses his mother groping with his father in the garden and, subsequently, when he sees his mother in a silky night gown she wore for his father.
The son, as a grown man, seems to recreate in his memory the buildup to his father's murder of his mother by hitting her on the head with a spade with the passive support of a prostitute he is involved with, who then moves into the house and is presented as his mother. The young son then kills the mistress by gassing her in the kitchen, although the final shot appears to show his mother lying dead, so viewers are left to wonder whether she really was his mother and the prostitute-mistress was a Capgras delusion. After that memory he sneaks late one night to the landlady's room and appears ready to kill her, whom he sees alternatively as the mistress, his mother and the landlady, but backs away after she says, "What have you done, Mr. Cleg?" He is then taken back to the asylum.
During a Q&A session at the Kodak Lecture Series in May 2005, Cronenberg revealed that neither he, nor Fiennes, nor Richardson, nor the producers received any sort of salary during the shooting of the film. All chose to waive their salaries, so the money could be used to bankroll the under-funded production.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 85% based on reviews from 130 critics. The site's critical consensus reads, "Ralph Fiennes is brilliant in this accomplished and haunting David Cronenberg film." On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 83 out of 100, based on 35 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3/4 stars, writing, "The details of the film and of the performances are meticulously realized; there is a reward in seeing artists working so well. But the story has no entry or exit, and is cold, sad and hopeless. Afterward, I feel more admiration than gratitude." Nev Pierce from BBC awarded the film 3/5 stars, calling it "dour, thoughtful, and oppressive". Stephen Holden from New York Times praised the film, calling it "as harrowing a portrait of one man's tormented isolation as the commercial cinema has produced." Peter Travers from The Rolling Stone awarded the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, writing, "What catches us in Spider‘s web — besides the indelible performances of Fiennes and Richardson — is the director’s sympathy with this freak man-child who struggles to order his confused memories into a kind of truth. That’s what makes Cronenberg a world-class provocateur: His movie gets under your skin." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian rated the film 4/5 stars, calling it " an intensely controlled, beautifully designed and fascinatingly acted account of Patrick McGrath's original novel". Mike Clark from USA Today awarded the film 3/4 stars, commending the film's direction, cinematography, and performances, while also stating that it was not particularly "sizzling" as in The Fly and eXistenZ.