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Crash: It's that Low Mechanical Hum in the Background

Author: • Sep 26th, 2007 •

Category: Ballardosphere, David Cronenberg, film, speed & violence, terrorism, theatre

The resonance of Crash refuses to dissipate.

Firstly, John emailed to inform me of a new Washington Times interview with David Cronenberg, in which the Baron of Blood makes this rather curious remark:

There’s an eroticism involved, certainly in ‘Crash,’ and I really saw that in the beheading videos. They looked like homosexual gang rapes with all the chanting and so on. It was pretty obvious to me, though [the terrorists] would be in total denial about that. There are strange, perverse elements to violence.

Meanwhile, Amplification, a dance performance based on stories of victims of automobile accidents, was choreographed by Phillip Adams (a Melbourne fellow like me, I note) and recently performed in Albany in the US:

“Amplification,” inspired in part by J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel “Crash” and David Cronenberg’s 1996 film adaptation, takes the harrowing elements of a head-on collision and injects them, surprisingly, with grace and humor. The movements of a body in a crash ricocheting against the steering wheel, flipping upside down, being ejected out a window are translated into extended dance sequences. In another section, dancers are folded and rolled on the floor inside white sheets that resemble shrouds.

[ via TimC ]

Finally, the ‘philosophical prankster’ Tom McCarthy was interviewed recently in the Independent, and Ballard was invoked as an influence. On top of this, it’s worth going back to an interview with McCarthy from late last year, where he has some pertinent things to say about Crash:

Ballard says we’ve collapsed the future into the present and we’re surrounded by fictions and fantasies from which we can pick at will. He says that the writer’s job is to invent the reality. I like that, that’s very good.

Crash was a big influence. It’s more the repetition side of things than the technology. Ballard’s hero Vaughan re-enacts car crashes of the rich and famous. He’s also obsessed with becoming authentic, as is Ballard-the-character-in-the-book. He keeps saying things like ‘the car crash was the first real thing that had happened to me’. The heroes of both Crash and Remainder use re-enactment and stylised violence as a portal towards the real – and fail spectacularly, excessively, luxuriously.

Ballard is fascinating because he’s a great writer without even being a good one. I don’t mean this negatively: I’m a huge fan. But he doesn’t care about polished prose (compare his sentences to Nabokov or Updike and they look like pulp) or depth of character. Having said that, Crash has an intense lyricism that comes from its almost incantatory, modulated repetition of technological and sociological terms, and Vaughan is a much truer presence for me than, say, some boring ‘rounded’ figure out of Jane Austen. That’s the great thing about Ballard: he’s got a vision, he’s a visionary, that makes him great, and the niceties he doesn’t bother with. He knows exactly where he stands in this respect. I talked to him once and told him my theory that Crash was a re-write of Don Quixote, whose hero also re-enacts stylised violent moments on the public highways in a bid for ‘authenticity’, and also fails fabulously – and he answered: ‘Your theory is great, but I’ve never read Don Quixote. I don’t really read proper books, I’m very low-brow.’ Genius.

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