The Fly (1986)

The transformation of a human being into a fly – while not a pristine watch in all its graphicness – didn’t make me flinch but fascinated me. The remake of the 1958 science fiction movie, The Fly (1986), reaches a level of imagination rarely seen as it is about the potential of transformation.

The scientist in this film wants his teleportation device to succeed and break new ground. In his ambition, when he tries to teleport himself from one pod to another, he wasn’t betting on a small fly coming with him.

This sideways bent occurrence that no one would expect turns into existential nightmare as he goes through a transformation that is terrifically angst-inducing, but that he counteracts with cerebral detachment and inevitable surrender.

He doesn’t experience enlightenment or salvation, but he wishes he had, in an experiment he hoped for better, but which went sorely wrong. The small fly’s DNA gets into his own biological system during the teleportation experiment which will send him into existentialist and biological frenzy, eventually turning him into a human sized fly that has no reason to exist.

For the audience, his transformational experience gone wrong is not so much one we vicariously feel ourselves, it’s rather too impossible to experience second-hand, but we know insects, we don’t know zombies and werewolves. We ‘interact’ with insects in our daily lives. What if one became an insect? Therefore, I watched The Fly with fascination.

The Fly is more in line with our natural world than we’d think, as one is fascinated to see how a human being transforms into one of nature’s most common bugs, so common that they are part of the everyday landscape (or on a hot day, the house-scape).

There are gross moments in this film, but one may imagine the whole film as not being as gross as it appears to be. It’s so fascinating it seems to be more about the imaginative potential of transformation rather than gross effects which is too obvious.

Maybe it’s a classic science fiction horror—I don’t mean science fiction or horror individually—but science fiction horror per-se.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), the scientist, is on the cusp of “changing the world”. His teleportation device can shift inanimate objects from one pod to another. He aims to teleport human beings and animals, living things. The science of this is lightly drawn but a fascinating prospect and Brundle’s enthusiasm is infectious. The journalist he uses (who becomes his lover), records the day in and day out workings of trying to move living things from one pod to another. Then, it all goes wrong…

Brundle’s transformation, as his girlfriend watches on helplessly, is a sight for starved eyes for the fascinating kind, but there’s some point to it all: that the one who wishes to change the world may become the victim of his own ambition, in some sort of sick accidental twist of life gone wrong. But that can be life in moments. Ambitious drive, progress, and transformation has become rather tragic in the end—because of the least likely reason, a small fly.


The Fly (1986) Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis. Director: David Cronenberg. Warnings: profanity of the Lord’s name and disturbing content.


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