Spider provided a disturbing yet interesting look into the mind of a man plagued by schizophrenia. I had initially felt the same as I did when I watched Blow-Up, as the lack of understanding for what was going on, accompanied by the lack of dialogue made it difficult to watch. However, because no interesting premise was provided, as with the murder scene in Blow-Up, paired with the nonsensical rambling and mystery from the character of Spider, I found myself intrigued enough to want to find out more.
It took awhile to get rolling, but once Spider’s memories were introduced, the film instantly became a whole lot more interesting. It felt as though the first 30 minutes of the film were there simply to establish intrigue in the audience through how strange Spider was with no clue whatsoever to what was in his head. The scenes of Spider’s memories began to provide payoff for this, however little, and seemed to be just enough for the moment as the film began to pick up from here on. Finding out about his past, as with Spider trying to complete a puzzle, seemed as gratifying (if at all) for the audience as the puzzle was for Spider. As the movie progressed, as did Spider’s puzzle, the revelations from his childhood memories began to become frustrating as no real answers were being given.
Things started to get really interesting, however, when the characters started changing. It might not be something you’d immediately notice, but these discrepancies are key to understanding what is or might be going on. I really liked how this was used as a means to depict the lapses in Spider’s memory, not only providing the audience a first-hand view of the workings on Spider’s mind, but also making the audience more involved by leaving us to explore the different possibilities posed by what we are shown.
This also highlighted how great the actors were, especially Miranda Richardson, playing the three different roles of Mrs. Cleg, Yvonne and eventually Mrs. Wilkinson. This accompanied by Ralph Fiennes’ indifference to the changing of these characters made it all the more confusing and all the more convincing at the same time.
By the final scenes of the film, where everything is seemingly revealed – that it was actually Spider who killed his mother, and that it actually was his mother that he killed and not Yvonne – you still seem to be left confused, as Mark Fisher perfectly puts it, the other interpretations are not closed in effect still leaving it open ended. This works perfectly, I think, as the realities or perceptions depicted in the film are left to the audience’s interpretation all throughout the movie.
These things are what I think make the film so great. The director was able to creatively make the audience feel as though we were all schizophrenic like Spider was. The depictions of his memories along with the changing characters were able to confuse us as much as Spider was confused, but also left us with the multitude of possibilities from our own memories of what we as viewers saw in the film.