Cosmopolis: An Asymmetrical Nightmare

11 Jul

1st article in our 7-week series on the film Cosmopolis

The film Cosmopolis will be released in US theaters August 17th, 2012. The long awaited film is an adaptation of Don DeLillos poetic novel of the same name. On some warn readers saying, “recommended for literary buffs who relish discomfort.[1]” Perhaps this is a fair assessment given the volatile period this book is based upon.  In this article, LIH will examine the political and social conditions that defined the 90’s as one of the most excessive and violent periods in America’s history.

As soon as the trailer hit the Internet, many critics defined this film as a “must see” for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by David Cronenberg, this film has continued to intrigue critics for its bold and complex philosophy about the future of capitalism. Filled with an eclectic mix of suspense, thrill and absurdity. This story is not for a PG-13 audience looking for comfort. DeLillo chooses to tell this story centering on 28-year old billionaire Eric Packer (portrayed by Robert Pattinson) asymmetrical nightmare that questions the future.

1990’s- The Decade of Violence & Sex:

  • In 1990-7 women accused President Clinton of sexual misconduct.
  • In 1991-  . Navy and Marine Corps fliers were accused of sexually abusing 26 women at the 35th Annual Tailhook Symposium, at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel.[2]
  • In 1992– South Central Los Angeles rioted after four white policemen were acquitted on assault charges for beating an African American motorist Rodney King.
  • In 1993– Terrorism was brought to American Shores as a bomb detonated in a garage at the World Trade Center.
  • 4 agents of the Bureau of US Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were killed during a raid at the Branch Davidian cult. Led by David Koresh, the compound was in Waco, Texas.
  • In 1995– US Army Veteran Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, City.[3]
  • In 1995-O.J. Simpson was tried for the murder of his ex wife Nicole Simpson and her male friend Ron Goldman.
  • In 1999-Within the US, there was at least 14 school shootings.
  • In 1999-The most lethal school shooting took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.  Twenty-three were wounded, one teacher and fourteen students were killed.

What was happening in America to cause such dissension? Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine released in 2002 gives a chilling recount of a nation desensitized to violence.

Could overconsumption and sleep deprivation be the reason for the violence?

Here’s an excerpt from the book Cosmopolis on pg.5

Sleep failed him more often now, not once or twice a week but four times, five. What did he do when this happened?”

As Americans bought bigger cars and homes they had to work longer hours to pay for them. Many were moving further away from the cities they worked in. Causing them to spend more time and money commuting back and forth to work. This meant less sleep and time spent with family around the dinner table. As one writer explains in an article entitled, America 1990-1999: Lifestyles and Social Trends.

The stock market and executive salaries soared, while the wages of many workers stagnated; many employees lost their jobs as the result of layoffs, mergers, and corporate downsizing. Politicians and policymakers, advertisers and marketers, all focused on children. Children, however, struggled to deal with the pressures of the adult world to which they were increasingly exposed; many were forced to adjust to new stepfamilies. Meanwhile, a disturbing number of adolescent and teenage boys went on deadly shooting rampages that left dozens dead or wounded, and a troubled nation asking “why?”

Contrary to the reader who stated Cosmopolis is for “literary buffs who relish discomfort.” I disagree; it’s for readers who want to be reminded of how far they’ve come and where they’re going. The absurd nature of violence and the poetic dialogue used (in both the book and film) lures audiences into taking a trip. While on this ride through hell, it allows audiences to question their own judgment about violence, sex and over indulgence.  Now that Americans are returning back to work after a long recession; will history repeat itself?

Please join us for a discussion Thursday 7/12/2012@7pmE/12UTC

57 Responses to “Cosmopolis: An Asymmetrical Nightmare”

  1. Comic Relief July 11, 2012 at 10:04 AM #


    Very cool topic and thanks for introducing this subject so eloquently (and expansively). The rest of us obviously have our work cut out for us. Can’t wait for the discussion.

  2. littlebells July 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM #

    Fantastic article and I agree with CR regarding the introduction of the subject. I heard some people walked out of screenings. I wonder how uncomfortable the discomfort is. Iiiinteresting.

    • Comic Relief July 11, 2012 at 3:42 PM #


      Did these people express why they walked out?

      Other than a few really graphic murder scenes, David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” (2007), the film had a pretty grizzly nude fight scene in a gym shower. If you’ve seen the footage it’s pretty hard to forget. I wonder whether this kind of thing is visible in this film. It was a surprise, yet Cronenberg is too deliberate a filmmaker for me to leave because of some provocative subject matter.

      I certainly don’t want to contradict you. I can believe people walked out, I’ve done it myself, yet the reason had nothing to do with the film I was watching. The cause had more to do with what I brought into that film watching opportunity. Other than sleeping, I won’t mention other inappropriate things I’ve done in movie theatres. My point is audience members may generally want to see the film but without knowing them it’s had to know what there expectations were or why they left.

      Then again you may have more information.

      • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 3:40 PM #


        I’m really sorry; I don’t think I was clear before.

        I meant to suggest that a movie like “Eastern Promises” might have encouraged some fear of the film’s material. “David Cronenberg” doesn’t do teen movies and I’m not sure how many of his films (this era or from past eras) have received less than an “R” rating.

        I can’t even show you that scene from that movie because actor Viggo Mortensen was naked throughout the entire scene and even Youtube has some content restrictions.

        • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 3:41 PM #


          You always bring up challenging issues specific to performance opportunities. Of course you have done it again; performance isn’t just about the actor’s actions but the audience’s reception as well. So I can see why discussing the lead actor is an absolute necessity.

          • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 3:42 PM #

            I don’t understand people who don’t believe Pattinson is ready to do other rolls. He was a professional actor long before Twilight and has done more than enough non-Twilight work.

            Those who confuse him with his Twilight co-stars are not very discerning.

            Just like any other movies, audiences we should allow artists, like Pattinson, to do what they are capable of doing. And we’ve heard from a lot of the Cannes coverage that he did an amazing job.

  3. littlebells July 11, 2012 at 3:58 PM #

    Well from what some have surmised, it may have been people who didn’t know the story and it was just too “strange” for them. I was also told it could possibly be fans of Rob who can’t see him outside his romantic lead roles and didn’t like what they saw. These are just theories. 🙂

    I have not seen Eastern Promises. it sounds very interesting.

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 3:47 PM #


      I think this (his appetite for challenging collaborations and material) is one of Pattinson’s strengths, that you might not notice if you stay too focused on his “Twilight”work.

  4. Open Book July 11, 2012 at 9:07 PM #

    Hi LB & CR-

    I’m glad u like the article. Let me say I hope people approach this topic and discussion with an open mind. I think the only way to gain understanding is through dialogue. So I hope our lurkers will join in on the discussion. However, to start things off, this is my take on why some audience members walked out.

    Dark Comedies rarely appeal to all audience members their first time out or in the same way. It would not be a true DC if it did. It’s hard to know without interviewing them why they walked out exactly. However, I go back to the big needle analogy when watching these films. Meaning don’t get hung up on how big the needle is, for example the graphic sex, violence etc…. that’s just packaging. Instead what’s inside the package or needle? In this case, the medicine in this needle is a look at a nation that created its-own hell through over consumption IMO.

  5. Open Book July 11, 2012 at 9:12 PM #

    Question for Everyone-

    Given the 90’s was described as a period of excess and over-indulgence. What do u think caused people to over extend themselves to the point of insanity?

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

      I don’t want to over simplify but it may just be the American culture at this point. Many described the 80’s this way also. In terms of excess, remember the big shoulders, hair, ….

  6. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 2:31 PM #

    Hi Everyone-

    I hope u can come back and join us for the discussion tonight. However until then I would like to start things off asking u to comment on this issue.

    The Hunger Games opened in theaters this year. It featured teens killing other teens. This film was marketed to a teen demographic. Most believed the violence was too graphic for teens, yet it received a PG-13 rating. Below is an article stating, teens are more prone to adapt to violence then adults. What do u think?

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 7:20 PM #


      By your historical account violence really is a major theme of the 90’s. What do believe violence supplies it’s perpetrators and victims to keep it such an ever present source of interest.

      • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 7:21 PM #


        Violence is really over rated and really doesn’t impact people nearly as much as some other social ills.

        I remember that the “Hunger games” was supposed to be a dystopian argument against violence. Yet I’ve never seen a film where teenagers were encouraged to kill each other.

        Other than the money did the Hunger Games accomplish anything else?

  7. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 3:16 PM #

    In Cosmopolis the future of Capitalism is discussed. “Capitalism A Love Story” is a wonderful documentary that explains what went wrong on WallStreet in the 90’s.

    • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

      That was very interesting. I think she’s right too!

  8. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 6:10 PM #

    David Cronenberg: Discusses The Occupy Movement in an interview from

    DC: “The Occupy movement] didn’t inform the film at all, because we really just stuck to the script. It just happened that what Don wrote was kind of prescient. It felt as though the world was catching up with him. So it didn’t alter what we did, but we couldn’t help noticing that it was as though we were making these things happen. We knew we weren’t. [Laughs] But Paul Giamatti, for example, texted me and said, “I can’t believe I just saw Rupert Murdoch get a pie in the face!” Because we’d just shot the scene where Rob gets a pie in the face.

    I could go on about the Occupy movement, but it was strange to be shooting scenes of anti-capitalist riots in New York and then read about the movement. It’s interesting … that there really are no anti-capitalists in this movie. It’s been noted, and I think it’s really accurate, that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not anti-capitalist. They really want a piece of the action, they’re saying, “We want to be part of that 1% … we should be part of the capitalist dream.” It’s not as though they’re communists or socialists and they’re hating capitalism and wanting to take capitalism down, they actually want to be capitalists. It’s the same with Benno, the character Benno … he loves capitalism. The complaint he has is that he’s been left behind by Eric … Eric is too quick, he’s too fast, he’s destroyed the way that Benno loved to work. So with the structure of the movie, it’s not so easy to say the movie’s anti-capitalist. It isn’t.”

    • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

      Wow, that must of been wierd for them! I liked that question and answer so thank you for posting it!

      • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:17 PM #

        Your welcome. I know this topic is difficult because most people are so busy they don’t want to be challenged to think about what they can do to change their predicament. Far too often we sit back and let corporations figure things out and not all of them are ethical. So although DC and DeLillo did not make this movie as a response to the Occupy Movement its quite a gift today for audiences to go and see this film to get a better understanding of what went wrong, so perhaps history won’t repeat itself. Does that make sense?

        • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

          Yes it does. There’s another novel like this but I can’t remember who it was by ore the name, lol! I’m trying to find it at the moment.

          • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:51 PM #

            I’m giving up my book search otherwise I’ll be on all night and miss the rest of the discussion!

            • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 9:07 PM #

              LOL!! No problem. It does sound interesting though.

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:14 PM #

      I hear Cronenberg, yet the movies characters and general era too easily reflect so many of the concerns of the Occupy movement.

      Claiming to simultaneously be witnessing the movement like us, can you explain why he believed he should distance himself (or the movie) from that influence?

      Since he claims to have strictly followed the (pre)written script, are we saps if were believe he/they didn’t incorporate any of what they witnessed around them?

      • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:31 PM #

        Well I think everyone will draw their own conclusions about this film. However, I think what DC was saying that DeLillo was just way ahead of his time. There is no way he could have predicted the OCM happening. True visionaries and artist can forecast in a way that makes u think their fortune tellers. LOL!! However, I think its them being observant,caring and curious enough to record what ‘s happening in real time about the world around them. Then we can sit back as audience members and see if they got it right. In this case I think they did.

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:51 PM #

      It’s amazing how bold both Cronenberg and Pattinson are being. This sort of film a few decades ago might have gotten DC charged with being a commie, a pinko, or a red. When Pattinson’s peers aren’t doing Nicholas Sparks movies they are doing something else cringe worthy. Are they Cronenberg and Pattinson likely to work together again?

      • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:54 PM #

        I hope so! I find the combination of the two quite refreshing!

        • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:57 PM #

          ITA I hope so too.

  9. littlebells July 12, 2012 at 6:45 PM #

    Hi OB,

    I will not be at the discussion this afternoon, but will be back this evening. I’m looking forward to getting caught up. 🙂

    • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 7:01 PM #

      Hi LB-

      No problem. We will miss u.

  10. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM #

    Welcome new and returning visitors to our discussion tonight. Please feel free to comment, ask questions or lurk.

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 7:03 PM #

      Hi OB.

  11. Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 7:11 PM #


    Do you think this is the best time for this movie to come out? If so why and if not why not?

    • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

      Hi CR-

      Great question: I think this film coming out is spot on. It really parallels what’s happening today with the Occupy Movement. In the film people were protesting the future of capitalism and today looking at the aftermath of the 90’s. This film does a good job of creating a forum to discuss how to keep history from repeating itself. What this film does for me is wake me up and question what am I’m doing today helping or hurting people? How can I become more actively involved instead of getting caught up in things that don’t help improve the environment.

      • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

        That same question part two:

        Seated with Cronenberg, I saw an interview where Pattinson said something (in an ironic manner) that he was suprized his movie was coming out in a period where so many super hero movies were being distributed.

        Does he believe the way different genres are distributed supports, hinders, or enhances “Cosmopolis’ at this time?

        • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 9:30 PM #

          Are u referring to the 1% comment he made? If so let me try and explain. I think many believe to make a lot u need to spend a lot. However, like we saw with John Carter u can spend big and loose big. So its more advantageous to spend less, focus on quality and possibly make 200 million while spending less. In both instances blockbusters and independents are both risky ventures. Its just having enough faith to try new things out instead of going with what’s popular. When u do risky films like Cosmo u are putting yourself out there more but not risking so much money because they cost less. When u do blockbusters u have a little security because it has a ready made fan base but the subject matter is not very challenging and u may still loose a lot of money if the film sucks. I hope this helps.

  12. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

    For everyone joining us? I’m slowly posting to give u time to look at some of the videos that I found interesting to put this film in context. There’s a lot of philosophical and symbolic ideas being thrown out very much like the over-saturation of information we encounter today. In this way this film really roots itself in the 90’s. Showing us the results of over-saturation & consumption IMO.

  13. ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

    Hi everyone!

    Very interesting article OB! 🙂

    • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 7:53 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      How are u? What did u find the most interesting about this topic?

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 7:58 PM #

      Hi Ozzie.

      • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:05 PM #

        Hi Ob and CR!

        I’m ok, how are you? I think what’s interesting is trying to see why the recession happened. Its like trying to psychoanalyze the world, lol! It would be nice for it not to happen again.

        • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

          Yeah! I know right? LOL!! I have posted the documentary by Michael Moore called “Capitalism a Love Story.” It might help shed some light on why the recession happened.

        • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

          I agree.

  14. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:05 PM #

    Do u think tabloid media help sensationalize scandal and violence among teens?

    • Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:16 PM #


      • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:49 PM #

        A yes from me too!

  15. Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:24 PM #


    When I think of Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck, I think of actors who are trying to use their art to at least promote a social understanding of the world around them? Fortunately they’re always so likeable.

    Sleazy Erik Packer does not appear likeable, admirable, or desirable on most terms. Career wise does Pattinson think he’s invulnerable? I only ask because George Clooney waited most of his career (very recently) before he started playing bad guys.

    • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:43 PM #

      Hmm! Well I can’t answer for Pattinson. Yet, I think in interviews I’ve heard him state how he’s selecting films that appeal to him. Like I said up above about visionaries. They are less concerned with trends and more observant and curious about the world around them. Then we can sit back and see if they got it right and I think this film speaks volumes about timing/relevance. So I say he gets an A+.

  16. Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

    I know this may not be his life’s calling, but I haven’t seen that many actors succeed at being romantic leads as effectively as Pattinson. Men in their twenties almost never succeed. Do you think he will pursue or pick up those roles again in the future?

    • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 8:52 PM #

      IDK! Yet I really like to see him branch out into other roles and genres. I mean looking at how easily he’s transitioned into Eric Packer for Cosmo shows he has a lot of range waiting to go. So to have that be limited to romantic roles I think is a waste of talent IMO.

      • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:57 PM #

        I agree with you OB! I’m kind of sick of romantic roles. I prefer something with more substance, something you can really engage in and will make you think.

        • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 9:03 PM #

          U and me both Oz! I’m tired of these romcoms/rom-sagas that do nothing to engage u or make u think. I mean films geared toward women like 50 shades is a slap in the face given how women are being sexualized and marginalized in the media. I mean COME ON!! Talk about self-hate. This is precisely what I’m talking about in creating your own nightmare. Meaning your actions today can hurt or help others tomorrow. Its up to u to be apart of the problem or apart of the solution IMO.

  17. Comic Relief July 12, 2012 at 8:53 PM #

    Great article, unfortunately I have to go. Thanks OB.

    • ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 8:57 PM #

      Bye CR!

    • Open Book July 12, 2012 at 9:05 PM #

      See u later CR thanks for coming. Great questions.

  18. Open Book July 12, 2012 at 9:31 PM #


    Thanks for coming to the discussion tonight. I will come back and respond later if u have more questions.


  19. ozzie20 July 12, 2012 at 9:44 PM #

    I tried looking for the book again. Still no luck! I better be off before I drive myself crazy over it, lol! Night all, I’ve had fun! 🙂


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