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Infinity Pool (2023): An Unhealthy Obsession with the Rich

still image from Infinity Pool film, a white man looks terrified as he sinks into a red liquid.
Infinity Pool Promo Image

Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool is a compelling science fiction film that scrutinizes the opulent lifestyle of the 1%, delving into their sinister nature of overindulgence. Gabe discusses the lifestyles of the rich and the famous and more importantly, why this film leaves much to be desired. Kat shares tools so you can be a better human than James, the main character was.

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Infinity Pool (2023)

James and Em Foster are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation in the fictional island of Li Tolqa, when a fatal accident exposes the resort's perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence, and surreal horrors.


Infinity Pool: Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous

by gabe castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


Infinity Pool is a compelling science fiction film that scrutinizes the opulent lifestyle of the 1%, delving into their sinister nature of overindulgence. The story follows James (Alexander Skarsgård), a writer grappling with writer’s block after the failure of his second novel and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), an heiress to a Publishing House fortune, during their vacation at an exclusive island resort in the fictional Li Tolqa. This resort is seemingly charming though eerily distant from the community outside the barbed fences. James and Em Foster are unsettled by this disconnection but try to make the most of the trip before finding themselves wrapped up in an European couple, Gaby (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert). The quirky couple lures Em and James out to a local beach, though leaving the resort is heavily warned against. On the way back, drunk and working through his own worries, James hits and kills a local man walking across the street. 

When he awakes the next morning, he is immediately arrested and taken to a disorienting, stark police station. Shockingly, he learns of his death sentence. The grim reality intensifies when the country's 'eye for an eye' tradition is unveiled, indicating that a family member of his victim will execute him. Here, the film delves into its science fiction elements, as James discovers that his demise won't come directly; instead, a clone identical to him in memories, flesh, and emotions will meet its end. From a distance, James and Em witness the unsettling spectacle of his clone being killed by the young son of his victim. Em is inconsolable while James is enticed by the situation, looking on, detached, as his body is mutilated in an act of vengeance. Gaby and Alban later expose the truth, they’ve gone through the same process and return to this resort every year to wreak havoc on the local populace and abuse their power. They are part of an elite group of rich people who’ve all “died” in this process. A disgusting group that James desperately wants to be a part of, and he spends the film working to satisfy their needs to fit in. 

The film unfolds in a hallucinogenic, cautionary tale of the lengths the ruling class will go to indulge their insatiable, violent desires. The movie is wrought with psychedelic sequences, orgies, wanton murder and a descent into madness for James who through the moments with the cult-like group slowly begins losing the thread. Like his film, Possessor, Cronenberg doesn’t focus on the mechanics or reality of this sci-fi technology but rather on the ethics and rational use-case for the technology. His first wild night out with the group finds them all once again arrested for murder. In a scene that teases accountability and responsibility, the group believes they’ll be cloned and released, only to be executed together screaming for their lives. But money wins every time, because watching and jeering from the stands is the group, in on the execution all along. 

James is subjected to abuse and torment, the new plaything for this group and more importantly, Gaby. Through their coercion, he beats one of his clones nearly to death, after being convinced it was the investigator responsible for this first arrest. He’s shot in the leg while trying to escape them. He’s forced to fight and asked to execute another clone of his, this one domesticated and dog-like. In the end, James murders the dog-him and becomes reborn, suckling at the teat of his mistress, Gaby. When the group boards the bus the next day, ready to return to their normal, mundane lives, James sits back, distanced and broken. We assume he gets on the plane and somehow returns to his life and his rich, forgiving wife. Only, we then see James on the beach of the resort subjected to monsoon-level torrential downpour which works to wash him clean of his sins. 

However, the theory folx have about James is that the real James never leaves the island, unable to return now that he has changed. He’s been broken down into pieces and since he himself is not rich, cannot wear the mask the others do. He was another toy for them, disposable and now he must live with the consequences of it. When James packs his bag to leave, there are three urns but there were five James’. First, the original James who we believe is still on the island in the end, the first clone to be executed by the young boy, the clone in the group execution, the clone beaten by OG James under the guise of being the investigator, and finally the dog-James. With only three urns and three confirmed, on screen deaths, that leaves one lone James. The theory is that the James who boards the plane is actually Investigator James, who though beaten severely isn’t killed since James runs away after realizing the truth. The James at the airport sports the same cuts and injuries that that James would’ve had while the James on the beach does not. The airport James also does not limp despite being shot earlier in the leg. 

In an article on Screenrant, titled James At The End Of Infinity Pool Wasn't The Real James, they explain the significance of the numbers three and five, and why they help to confirm this theory, “Throughout Infinity Pool, there are specific references to the numbers three and five, correlating to the number of Jameses seen in the film. James packs three urns before leaving the resort for the final time, and each of these curious souvenirs represents a James that has died, though some of them (like the one James beat) don't have onscreen deaths. He also stands under signs for Terminal 3 and Terminal 5 at the airport, and his room number is 305 at the resort, suggesting the twist is revealed earlier and implying that though three Jameses died, five are created in total.”

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous

We’ve had many horror films that criticize the 1%. Some of them are disgusting and brash (such as Society and Triangle of Sadness). Others are brilliant, charming satire (The Menu and Ready or Not). Infinity Pool, though very much a film criticizing the rich, accompanies that theme with a critique of the system that enables their behavior. What sets this film apart from those others is Li Tolqa and their bizarre customs. The system, which lures the elite rich to their island, locking them away as a taunt is also at fault. What can you expect of this demographic, which is never told no, to do when they are told not to do something? The cloning technology incentivizes abuse of the local population. Yes, the rich people are monsters, murderers, and childish - no doubt the villains of this story - but so too are the police force and resort owners. They have profited off of this violence and turned murder into a business venture. The executions are as much of a performance as the system itself, a symbol is killed but the institutions remain the same. How could killing a clone of the person responsible ever be considered justice for the families of the lost?

Even if the people at the resort are bringing in money, is it making it to the economy and the citizens most affected by this violence? Or is it stuck, lining the pockets of the government and police of Li Tolqa? How much of that system is understood by the natives and how much is a secret underground get-rich-quick scheme of those in power? If Li Tolqa has access to this technology, why aren’t they using it on their own people? Why can’t we bring back the man James ran over instead of letting James and the others kill more people?

Just as I felt in watching the first season of White Lotus, I wonder at the scenes that follow the departure of the attendees. When the rich return to their lives of harming people indirectly, what happens to the people left behind? For all the imagery Cronenberg left seared into our minds, I am left only with the tickling darkness of what we don’t see, the people we don’t learn about, and the lives changed forever. By focusing on James and his journey of realizing he will never belong with these people, we’ve limited the story and the audience’s ability to sympathize. We’re left with no winners, no hope, and no resolution. James, another victim of the rich elite, is left in the rain or on a plane, never held accountable for his own actions. And viewers are left asking, what did that give me that I didn’t already have? 

I’m a Fan of Hedonism but only from a nihilistic POV not for the careless rich

Every review I’ve found of the film mentions this idea of hedonism. Which the plot is undoubtedly about, following this group composed of soulless harpies gluttonous for violence and control which only slightly gives them pleasure, a tempting release from reality. Only, is it any different from reality? Sure, the group is killing people in cold blood but the 1% do that every day, only the blood isn’t literally on their hands. 

It was in this exploration of what hedonism looks like for the rich that I had an idea. You may recall in a previous episode of Ghouls about the show, Alice in Borderlands, that I celebrated the idea of hedonism. Specifically, I appreciated the freedom that came with the hedonism of these characters who in the shadow of impending death and hopelessness, still found space for pleasure. I realized that hedonism becomes harmful when wielded by the rich. For lower-income, minority, or the other 99% of the population, their hedonistic acts have a cap on the damage they can do to others. Their harm is small scale, their actions chump change in comparison to the damage a rich person’s hedonism can bring about. Because they have money, their pursuits are limitless and so the reach for them becomes limitless too. Like addiction, they will find themselves constantly striving for that next high, a high bigger than the one before and because they have money and power, they can reach for anything - even the death of native peoples for their own amusement. 

Their money means that the reverberations of their actions reach farther than any one, regular human could strive for. Their money unsettles nations, murders innocents, robs people of their humanity, and devastates our planet. An impact that the film comes nowhere near covering. Where other successful science fiction films (They Cloned Tyrone, Get Out, Us) absurdify reality to make it more palatable, exaggerating everyday harm into something grotesque and impossible, Infinity Pool offers a deluded version of reality that leaves us just as hopeless and uninformed as reality. By keeping so much of the harm in the dark, Cronenberg has robbed his viewers of a true horror story, leaving us like James, soaked through to the bone and with nothing to show for it. 

So much of the film is Cronenberg grappling with his own insecurities. He centers a white man, struggling with writer’s block, suffocating under the shadow of a father figure, and itching to fit into a group of people out of his league. And as much as those fears and insecurities are valid, they are just as far removed from the public understanding of pain as the plot itself. Sorry but I #CantRelate, Nepo Baby. 


Morality in Infinity Pool and How to be a Better Person

by Kat Kushin

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

In my section today I’ll be unpacking a few ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of technology in the way we see represented in possessor. Currently we are not equipped with the kind of technology necessary to create this dystopian scenario, at least not at the level we see it in the film. But there are technological advances in the works that could enable this kind of future if not regulated or monitored. I think considering the documented history of how corporations, the cia, the government, have in the past experimented and attempted to control people, it is within reason to be concerned about how they would operate if that kind of technology were achievable. Games have hinted at the many terrifying ways technology and our biology could be altered and integrated, as well as manipulated by those in power. Thinking cyberpunk, or metal gear. I’ll be unpacking two technology use cases, and the ethical concerns surrounding both. First we’ll be going over Neuralink, and similar tech. To provide some context, Neuralink is a company that Elon Musk owns. 

The goal of Musk and the Neuralink project is to merge the human mind with Ai, which presents a lot of potential, as well as threats. The technology in theory would have the capability to alter the way neurons interact within the brain, and the signals that allow us to move, think and more. The goal is to essential merge the human brain with technology, which could either deliver life changing results in a positive or negative way. A big piece of the chips intent is to decode and understand the neural spikes and translate that information into something readable. To give us a more clear picture of the way the human brain operates. There are ways this could be manipulated in a futurama or black mirror esque horror scenario. It also very possibly provides a Chronenburgian type hijacking. At the very least a cyberpunk one. But what we see in the video, is the way the neuron spikes are tracked and decoded in a Macaques’ brain as they play a game on a computer screen. The monkey has two chips in their brain, and they track the neuron spikes in attempts to decode them. Neuralink. They have apparently made it so the monkey can control the game with it’s decoded neural activity, in essence their mind. To understand the decoded material and the brain enough that you can cut out the physical requirement, and instead can control the tech with the mind. 

The claim is also that they are seeking out patients who have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ALS, and illnesses or injuries that cause paralysis, to test the capabilities of whether or not the neuralink can restore the connections between the signal sent by the brain and its pathway to the limbs and other areas of the body. Additionally, using the connection to technology, prosthetics, and other tools that could be brain activated. 

This could extend out to being able to replay memories in the mind, offer capabilities for watching videos with the mind, or offer thought-based connections with the internet (makes me think of actually entering a simulation, like that of countless animes, Striking vipers, and other media). 

This kind of technology would be really amazing imo IF we did not live in a capitalistic and oppressive society. If there was ANY trust for those in power to not manipulate and distort this power, I think this would be an amazing development. Considering who is in charge of developing it though, I do not believe this will stay what it is claimed to be made for. 

The passage explores the potential implications of implantable brain chips, considering both the beneficial and concerning aspects of this technology. It    discusses various applications, including aiding individuals with disabilities, enhancing cognitive abilities, and enabling direct interfaces between the brain and computers. The text highlights ethical, social, and psychological considerations associated with the development and implementation of such technology.

Key points include:

  1. Beneficial Applications: Implantable brain chips could potentially assist individuals with disabilities, enhance sensory perception, memory, and cognitive abilities. They could also enable invisible communication and provide consistent access to information.

  2. Ethical and Social Concerns: The passage raises several ethical dilemmas, such as safety issues, informed consent, privacy concerns, and the potential for societal inequalities. It discusses the psychological impacts of altering human nature and blurring the boundaries between individuals and technology.

  3. Cost and Accessibility: The text acknowledges the potential cost-effectiveness of implantable brain chips and discusses the stages of adoption, from therapeutic use to enhancement. It raises concerns about access to this technology, particularly regarding inequality and the widening gap between socio-economic classes.

  4. Control and Surveillance: The passage warns of the potential for totalitarian control and governmental surveillance facilitated by implantable brain chips. It discusses the implications for individual autonomy, privacy, and security, particularly in military and criminal justice contexts.

  5. Regulation and Policy: The passage emphasizes the need for comprehensive evaluation and regulation of implantable brain chip technology. It calls for interdisciplinary collaboration and public discourse to address the complex ethical, social, and technical challenges associated with its development and implementation.

Overall, the passage underscores the importance of critically assessing the potential risks and benefits of implantable brain chips and making informed decisions about their future direction and regulation.

The passage discusses a clinical trial involving deep brain stimulation (DBS) for treating severe depression, focusing on the challenges and ethical dilemmas encountered during the trial and its aftermath:

  • Background of the Trial: Neurologist Helen Mayberg initiated a trial in 2003 to test DBS treatment for severe depression by implanting electrodes in area 25 of the brain. The trial, sponsored by St. Jude Medical, involved a 200-person clinical trial called BROADEN.

  • Trial Failure: Lancet Psychiatry reported the trial's failure after a 6-month study in 90 participants failed to show significant improvement between the active stimulation group and the control group.

  • Implant Maintenance: Despite the trial's failure, some participants chose to keep their implants. The ethical dilemma arose regarding who would take responsibility and pay for their ongoing care, as well as any additional surgeries needed in the future.

  • Financial Responsibility: Participants who chose to keep their implants bore the financial responsibility for their maintenance and any future surgeries. Mayberg advocated for lower costs for her patients and worried about their care if she were no longer around.

  • Long-term Planning: Ethicists and neurologists emphasized the need for long-term planning in DBS research, given the growing funding available. NIH requires applicants to include a long-term plan for patients in funding applications but does not provide prescriptive guidelines.

  • Challenges and Ethical Considerations: Challenges include determining when to start high-stakes trials, refining targeting techniques, and addressing the possibility of hypothesis failure. Ethical considerations include ensuring proper consent from participants and assessing the long-term effects of stimulation on the brain.

  • Future Directions: NIH is supporting nine early feasibility trials for brain stimulation treatments, including two for depression. Researchers continue to grapple with ethical dilemmas and the complex nature of brain stimulation therapy.

Overall, the passage highlights the complexities and ethical challenges inherent in DBS research and emphasizes the need for thoughtful consideration of long-term implications and participant care.

The next thing we’ll be unpacking is data mining and the way Amazon and other mega corporations use and manipulate our user data…for reasons? Reminiscent to what we saw in the film. Additionally this data is used by the government and law enforcement when hit with a warrant. Similarly Meta has also been flagged for this. 

Data mining is most commonly defined as the process of using computers and automation to search large sets of data for patterns and trends, turning those findings into business insights and predictions. Data mining goes beyond the search process, as it uses data to evaluate future probabilities and develop actionable analyses.

The article highlights how Amazon gathers data from various sources, including its retail site, Prime Video, GoodReads, Audible, Twitch, and Whole Foods. Concerns are raised about the potential misuse of this data for targeted advertising and surveillance purposes.

Specific examples are provided, such as Ring doorbell cameras sharing recordings with law enforcement and Echo devices allegedly collecting data without user consent. The recent acquisitions of One Medical further expand Amazon's access to consumer data, raising concerns about healthcare. They had a deal with iRobot that fell through but the concern there was the risk of home mapping. The technology of home mapping is already possible through the use of Wifi routers and other forms of technology, not specific to amazon. 

Critics argue that Amazon's market dominance and data collection practices contribute to antitrust concerns and threaten consumer privacy. The article mentions ongoing legislative efforts to address these issues, including proposed antitrust bills aimed at restraining dominant digital platforms like Amazon.

In the article they quote someone named Greer, saying "People tend to think of Amazon as an online marketplace, but really, Amazon is a surveillance company," Greer told Insider. "[E]very aspect of their profit is derived from their ability to amass and leverage data."

Amazon's surveillance of its employees is well-documented, from its "time off task" metric that measures productivity to monitoring its delivery drivers with AI cameras. Such strict standards that employees report being scared to take bathroom breaks, lest they fall behind, drivers and warehouse workers have reported.

Amazon terminates iRobot deal, Roomba maker to lay off 31% of staff (imagine Amazon having access to your house data via the roombas)

Ethical Concerns in Data Mining

There are three chief concerns in data mining and use:

  1. Transparency: Customers should have a certain amount of visibility into and control over how their data is collected and used. Companies should be forthcoming with their data collection and use practices and ask permission before acting rather than asking for forgiveness after the fact. However, transparency with opt-in or opt-out procedures is not sufficient. Customers should be presented with and asked to explicitly consent to specific language around data access and usage in order to make informed choices. Mass broadcasts of fine print opt-in messages are not solving today’s data collection and usage transparency concerns.

  2. Personal data: Currently, there is no industry or political standard in the U.S. regarding the legal parameters or definition of personal data. Today, businesses operate largely with sector-specific regulations and their own beliefs about what constitutes personal data. Often, these ideas center around legal consent, rather than types of data and how companies can and cannot use them. This latitude presents risks to customers.

  3. Governance: Even in the EU, where the GDPR offers a more comprehensive legal framework for data practices, control within companies is just as essential to protecting consumer data. There must be leaders assigned to policy development, supervision and enforcement. Without proper governance, ethical lapses and legal troubles are inevitable.


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