THE SHROUDS

May 23, 2024

david cronenberg, the shrouds, vincent cassel, diane kruger

Words by JANE CROWTHER


David Cronenberg’s latest is a riddle about grief, loss and mortality wrapped in a whodunnit so twisty you may well have to watch again the minute it ends. It focuses on Karsh (Vincent Cassel) a widower who provides hi-tech graves to wealthy Toronto dwellers. Instead of simply burying their dead, clients buy a sci-fi digi ‘shroud’ that maps every rotting detail of their loved one’s corpse and transmits to the screen in their headstone as well as to an app on their phone. He’s also opened a gourmet restaurant in the graveyard where a blind date is understandably put off by his obsession with the recently deceased, most particularly his wife Becca (Diane Kruger), who perished after numerous procedures to battle breast cancer. 

Plagued by dreams of his wife (always nude, her body incrementally more mutilated by medicine), Karsh also toys with living women; Becca’s identical sister Terri (also Kruger) who is aware that her likeness to her sibling creates a frisson, and a mysterious blind client (Sandrine Holt), who’s own partner is succumbing to cancer. Throw in to the mix a vandal attack on the graveyard, Terri’s shambolic ex, Maury (Guy Pearce) and the possibility of a conspiracy that could involve protestors, the Chinese government or Karsh’s AI assistant Honey (also voiced by Kruger) and The Shrouds gets deep into issues of AI, spyware, fidelity and sorrow in Cronenberg’s trademark clinical style.

A deeply personal film for the director (his own wife died in 2017 and Cassel’s look seems borrowed from the auteur), The Shrouds explores the bewilderment and paranoia of grief while staring death in the face via decomposition and with no easy resolution. Is it pure Cronenberg? Yes. Does it have answers? No. And that will be a thrilling/frustrating experience depending on your taste.

david cronenberg, the shrouds, vincent cassel, diane kruger

David Cronenberg’s The Shrouds starring Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger played at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will be released in cinemas later this year

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