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Described by some as disturbing and sick, Infinity Pool is one of the most interesting horror films of 2023. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, it is a horror movie that contains elements of science fiction, psychological horror, and a trippy drug movie. Infinity Pool raises some fascinating philosophical questions, so read on for an explanation of what the movie is all about and what some its more puzzling moments mean. Also, beware of spoilers ahead.
What is Infinity Pool About?
Infinity Pool follows James Foster, a writer who is struggling to find inspiration for his next book. James and his wife Em are vacationing at a resort located in the fictional country of La Tolqa. James meets another couple at the resort, Gabi and Alban Bauer, and, along with Em, the two couples take a day trip to a beach outside the fenced-in confines of the resort. James drives them back to the resort that night, but he ends up in trouble with local law enforcement when he accidentally hits and kills a man.
La Tolqa has very strict laws, and James is sentenced to death for his actions. However, for a price, the local authorities can make an exact clone of James which will stand in as his surrogate, being killed in James’ place. James agrees to the procedure, and he soon learns that there is a group of people who take full advantage of the situation, committing all sorts of hideous acts and paying their way out of any repercussions. Intrigued, James walks down a dark path as he joins that hedonistic group.
Essentially, Infinity Pool is about the moral implications of the idea that when you can pay your way out of any crime, you are free to do absolutely anything. It also deals with ideas about identity, self-observation, and human nature.
Infinity Pool Ending Explained
What Happens in the Ending of Infinity Pool
When the first clone of James is executed in a horrifically gory stabbing, Em is disgusted, but James is inspired. James hides his passport, using that as an excuse to stay at the resort by lying to Em about losing it. Seeing something different and disturbing in James, Em leaves the resort and goes home. With Em gone, James no longer feels the need to suppress his darker impulses.
Gabi and Alban introduce James to the group of other rich tourists. James feels like an outsider at first, but Gabi takes a special interest in James. She introduces him to new sensations and pushes him to act in more violent ways. At first James is hesitant to engage in the group’s sessions of sex, drugs, and murder, but they play to his ego, often making him the center of attention. It works, and James gets caught in a cycle where the more unhinged he acts, the more praise he receives.
One night, the group tricks James into brutalizing a clone of himself by putting a hood over the clone’s head. Shocked by the revelation and embarrassed by the realization that everyone is laughing at him, James tries to leave the resort. Led by Gabi, the group finds James while he is on a bus to the airport. James flees, but not before getting shot in the leg by Gabi. Later, waking up in a farmhouse, James tries to leave but is surrounded by the group.
Gabi has the clone of James brought out. The clone is naked, crawling, and on a leash like a dog. At gunpoint, Gabi tells James to kill his clone. James refuses, but the clone, in a feral state, attacks James. In the fight with himself, James ends up beating the clone to death with his fists. Gabi embraces James and bares her breast, allowing James to breastfeed on her. Later, James is seen with the entire group as they travel to the airport and leave for home. Everyone else talks about mundane topics of home life, but James’ mind is elsewhere. As the last person at the airport, James decides not to go home. We last see James at the resort, alone, sitting in the rain.
What the Ending of Infinity Pool Means
During the scene where Gabi forces James to kill his clone, she refers to the act as part of James’ “transformation.” She also tells James in an earlier scene that her group always chooses someone to abuse for their own amusement every time they come to the resort, and this year James is their victim. While it is never made explicit, this would seem to indicate that others in Gabi’s group were also put through a similar ordeal. Basically, they attempt to convert people to their way of life. If the process of transformation works, they can join the group. If the process fails, then at least they had fun torturing someone with zero repercussions.
The transformation process works too well on James though. As indicated by their conversations on the way to the airport, Gabi and her friends are able to turn away from their vacation lifestyles whenever they go home. For them, sex, drugs, and murder are fun diversions. What happens in La Tolqa stays in La Tolqa. James is different though. James has been searching for something meaningful for years (hence his writer’s block), and he finds it in La Tolqa. Now that he’s experienced what it’s like to literally kill himself, he can’t go back to a normal life. He is changed forever, and that’s why he decides to stay behind.
The moment where James breastfeeds on Gabi is the most telling. Gabi has successfully broken James down completely, and he is figuratively reborn. It’s a blunt metaphor, but it works. It’s difficult to say why James has such an extreme reaction to Gabi’s manipulations. He seems to act out more aggressively than anyone else. It probably has something to do with human nature. Or more specifically, that every human has a different nature when confronted with the possibility of absolute freedom.
For example, Em wants nothing to do with any of it, and she gets as far away as she can. Gabi and the group treat it like a game, reducing human lives to playthings. James has complex feelings about it, subconsciously feeling something close to guilt (like when he dreams of being attacked by the son of the main he first killed), but he is irrevocably changed by the power he feels. Was it always something James had inside, or is it a result of Gabi’s influence? That’s a nature versus nurture debate with no simple answers.
Another interesting aspect of the story is touched on by Bob, the doctor within Gabi’s group. When meeting James, Bob expresses wonder about whether or not he or anyone else in the group is their original self, or if they might have been switched with a clone. If the clone is perfect enough and has the same memories, then how would they know if they’re a clone? At one point in Infinity Pool a scene is made to appear as if the entire group is being executed, only to reveal that they are all clones. But are they? Does it matter?
When you think about it, if the clone is perfect and retains all of the original person’s memories, then they are the exact same person up until the point where they wake up after the cloning procedure. In a way, that means every time James is cloned and executed, he has a 50% chance that he will be one who is killed. From the clone’s perspective, they are the original person and they expected to get away with murder. But they didn’t, and they have the added humiliation of knowing their other self is watching their death with amusement. It takes the idea of being able to laugh at yourself to bizarre extremes. It also brings to mind the idea that these people can’t take what they dish out.
Infinity Pool Cast and Characters
Alexander Skarsgård as James Foster
James Foster is a writer who has written exactly one book, and that book didn’t sell very well. He is suffering from a years-long bout of writer’s block, and he is doubting that he has what it takes to succeed at all in his chosen profession. James is searching for something, and as the movie begins, that search is creating emotional distance between himself and his wife Em. The power he feels when learning he can do whatever he wants is like a drug to him (and so are the actual drugs he takes).
Mia Goth as Gabi Bauer
Gabi is an actress (mostly in infomercials) who leads the group of rich tourists who take advantage of La Tolqa’s bizarre laws. Gabi is charming and manipulative, and she is able to bend James to her will right from the start.
Cleopatra Coleman as Em Foster
Em is married to James, and she is the daughter of James’ publisher. Em is supportive of her husband to a point, but she is growing increasingly frustrated with his selfish attitude. After seeing the reaction James has to witnessing the death of his clone, Em further distances herself from him.
Jalil Lespert as Alban Bauer
Alban is married to Gabi, and he is instrumental in getting James to join their group of killers. Alban is the closest thing to a friend James has within the group, but Alban eventually sides with the group and fades somewhat into the background as Gabi increases her manipulations.
Thomas Kretschmann as Detective Thresh
Detective Thresh is the man who “interrogates” James when he is first arrested for killing a farmer while driving. The interrogation is little more than an ultimatum: give us money so we can make a clone, or be put to death. By his delivery of the information, it’s clear Thresh has done this same exact thing many times before.
The rest of the tourist group consists of:
- Amanda Brugel as Jennifer
- John Ralston as Dr. Bob Modan
- Caroline Boulton as Bex
- Jeffrey Ricketts as Charles
Infinity Pool Review
Infinity Pool is certainly not for everyone. The graphic and disturbing nature of the movie is overstated in many ways, but that is likely because early screenings prior to its wide release were more graphic. Even in its R-rated theatrical version though, it does contain a fair amount of nudity and gore. That said, for people who are okay with those things, Infinity Pool is great.
The best parts of Infinity Pool are its two lead actors: Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth. Both of them go all-out with their performances, creating some truly messed-up moments through their characters’ interactions. People may point to the gore, violence, and sex as disturbing, but seeing the depths Skarsgård’s character sinks to and the extremes Goth’s character goes is more disturbing than anything else. Their commitments to their roles should be commended and recognized.
Also, visually, Infinity Pool is fantastic. What we see on screen makes us feel isolated, vulnerable, creeped out, and almost always uncomfortable. It is a beautiful movie even in its most grotesque moments.
The story is rather simple and all points towards the same basic premise: what would you do if you could get away with anything? The movie doesn’t provide any universal answers, so if you’re looking for a message, you might not find what you’re looking for. Instead, Infinity Pool raises questions that have no firm answers. It’s more about starting a conversation rather than defining a specific message. In that way it is quite interesting, though some viewers may find it unfulfilling.
Infinity Pool is for horror fans who enjoy odd premises and philosophical quandaries. It’s for people who don’t mind feeling gross and uncomfortable at times, because that’s exactly what the movie is trying to convey. It’s also a must-watch for fans of Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Infinity Pool on Netflix?
Why is Infinity Pool rated R?
Is there an NC-17 rated version of Infinity Pool?
Brandon Cronenberg has said the “R-rated version isn’t hugely different” from the NC-17 cut. Additionally, Alexander Skarsgård stated that not much was changed between the NC-17 and R cuts, with most of the edits consisting of alternate shots in a few of the film’s hallucinatory scenes. From the sound of it, no scenes were cut, and only a few shots were modified.
When talking in general about modifying movies to avoid an NC-17 rating, Cronenberg says “usually there’s a plan to release the full film.” So, hopefully the NC-17 version of Infinity Pool will be included in its home video release. The “uncut” version is currently available on home video.
Where was Infinity Pool filmed?
What does the title of Infinity Pool refer to?
Also, “infinity pool” refers to the “pool” the people in the movie have to step inside to create a clone. The pool is more of a room that fills with liquid, but the idea is that this “pool” can create an infinite number of clones of a person.