David Cronenberg Shoots Prada-Produced Short Using 18th-Century Female Wax Corpses

Warning: This story contains a graphic image.

David Cronenberg has made a short film featuring female wax corpses made during the 18th century in Italy. The wax figures were intended for medical studies, in order to train surgeons prior to operating on real bodies.

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The Canadian director, known as the father of body horror thanks to films such as “The Fly,” “eXistenZ,” and his latest pic “A History of Violence,” has been recruited by the Prada Foundation, the arts institution set up by the Italian fashion house, to shoot the short film. It features anatomical wax works from the La Specola museum in Florence, one of the oldest scientific museums in Europe. The museum is currently being renovated and is closed to the public.

The untitled Cronenberg short will be an integral part of an exhibition at the Prada Foundation in Milan titled “Cere anatomiche: La Specola di Firenze | David Cronenberg” that will run March 24-July 17.

The Milan exhibition includes one of the best-known works from La Specola’s collection, the so-called Venus, a rare wax model with detachable parts.

“Through his short movie, David Cronenberg will provide an alternative gaze on the four female wax models on display, liberating them from their academic function as medical demonstrations and educational tools,” the Prada Foundation said in a statement. It added that the film “will reveal the vivid and unexpected dimension of the female wax corpses that until now have been known for their static and severe nature.”

Cronenberg in a statement pointed out that the wax figures were created primarily as teaching tools that unlocked the mysteries of the human body for medical students who centuries ago who could never access the relatively rare corpse dissection sessions of universities and teaching hospitals. The director also noted: “In their effort to create certain partially dissected full figures whose body language and facial expressions did not display pain or agony,” they also happened “to produce living characters who seemed to be in the throes of ecstasy.”

“It was this startling choice on the part of the sculptors of these figures that captured my imagination: what if it was the dissection itself that induced that ecstasy, that almost religious rapture?” Cronenberg went on to say.

A spokesman for the Prada Foundation said it was not known if the Cronenberg short made with the ancient Italian wax corpses will be traveling beyond the exhibition in Milan.

Courtesy Fondazione Prada
Courtesy Fondazione Prada

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