Thursday, 21 October 2010

Splice Review

Does this film successfully use metamorphosis to re-enact the creation of man mythos?

Splice a 2009 Sci-fi thriller by Vincenzo Natali (Director) starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley and Delphine Chaneac. Metamorphosis is the dominant vehicle used to portray the emotional, physical and psychological ingredients of this film. Religious and cultural references are used to compare Vincenzo’s thriller to the creation of man mythos within the film’s hybrid family structure. The Director’s ideas and their correlation to the creation mythos, then the conception of the family in the film, and the development of the child and how through metamorphosis grows to achieve its own creation is investigated. Whether the film achieves its objectives will be also examined in the conclusion.

Fig 2, Adam And Eve Expelled From Paradise

 Main Body

‘Splice’ engages the audience with just the mere mention of the title. It suggests images of rampaging monsters of Resident Evil and the subtle alien life-forms of Species, however this is only partly true. Vincenzo Natali brings more than mere sensationalism to the table; he brings the foundation of everyday life, the family, to the screen. With suggestive underpinnings of the creation mythos my evaluation of the film is subjective, looking at the metamorphosis of the family in conjunction with that of the relationship of Adam and Eve with God. Vincenzo Natali uses the concept of Metamorphosis to detangle the foundations of family through the creation of man mythos. The Oxford Dictionary defines metamorphosis as; “1. Changes of form, from pupa to an insect. 2. Change of character, conditions” (Thompson, 1992). Meaning that metamorphosis is creation in motion. Vincenzo uses this motion to re-evaluate the dawn of man through his characters within a family unit. In an Interview with Chris Eggertsen, Vincenzo differentiates between his film and other creature movies “It differs in that it spends a lot more time examining the relationship between the creature and its creators. And I think takes that relationship to places that haven't really been explored before. So without giving too much away, it really delves into kind of Oedipal and Freudian underpinnings of that sort of relationship. I like to call ‘Splice’ my family film” (Chris Eggertsen, 2010). In this quote Vincenzo acknowledged that the creature (Dren, Delphine Chaneac) which exemplifies his concept of metamorphosis, and her interaction with the two scientists who created her within a family structure. The film draws upon the Garden of Eden story, where the gods create Adam to perpetuate their existence and nurture his obedience.

Fig 3, Clive and Elsa

Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are well-renowned scientists who work for a pharmaceutical corporation creating a new species in order to extract its proteins. Clive and Elsa who are in a personal relationship begin to think about starting a family. With ambition to create a human hybrid the couple, who now face the threat of losing their splicing unit, are compelled to bring their ideas to fruition. The two scientists are portrayed as parent gods on the brink of creating a new humanoid being, defying institutional protocol to fulfil their desire to procreate. Elsa uses her own DNA to initiate the conception of Dren who was once just a thought in her creators’ minds materialises (a form of metamorphosis). With no wisdom behind her knowledge of creating this creature, Elsa ploughs head-long into the abyss of degradation. Clive although initially hesitant, complies with Elsa’s actions. The two scientists more concerned with the power they wield become like the archons in the Gnostic Bible as this quote reveals; “The rulers made plans and said, ‘Come, Let’s create a human of soil from the earth.’ They formed their creature as a being entirely of the earth. These archons have bodies that are both female [and male], and faces that are the faces of beasts. They took [soil] from the earth and formed [their human], after their own bodies and [after the image] of God that appeared [to them] in the water” (Meyer, 2008, 161). The archons created man oblivious to their own creators, creating almost for creation’s sake. Elsa and Clive working as a unit, act as the androgynous rulers, subconsciously needing one another to complete their experiment. Elsa and Clive epitomise the archon’s lack of wisdom and forethought of the consequences. 
Fig 4, Dren as a child

Dren once conceived is not what the scientists expect. Roger Ebert had this to say on the growth of Dren. “What results is a new form of life, part animal, part human, looking at first like a rounded SpongeBob and then later like a cute kid on Pandora, but shorter and not blue” (Ebert, 2010). However comical this comment may be, he is not wrong. The development of Dren is a fantastic metamorphosis from a marsupial-like animal to a humanoid being able to adapt to the surrounding environment. Elsa quickly adopts a motherly role, whereas Clive becomes resentful of Dren’s existence. Dren evolves faster than a human being, with accelerated physical and mental growth. The scientists raise Dren within the confines of the laboratory and isolate her from contact with other humans. The couple feel the need to hide Dren in fear of being discovered, while also waiting for the right moment to reveal her to the world. The Biblical God also felt the need to contain his creation, as we see in this quote. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (The Holy Bible, Authorised King James version). God in isolating Adam in this Garden allowed His influence only to be imparted to Adam giving him everything he could desire. Adam not completely satisfied leaves the Garden through the tree of good and evil i.e. original sin. With Dren’s similar predicament it appears hopeless as the new parent scientists realise very soon through her accelerated growth that she cannot be contained. This becomes clear when Dren falls ill during her relocation to the basement in the laboratory, and Clive tries to drown her. Dren amazingly adapts gills breathing underwater, recovering her to full strength. The metamorphosis of Dren slowly allows her to become less dependent on her ‘creators’, mastering her new world, and drawing from all elements of her environment. Dren learns many things within this self-created Eden but nothing more significant than the sexual act. Which she sees when Clive’s and Elsa’s passion overcome them, while Dren is still awake. This scene recreates the picking of the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by Eve. The scientists’ sexual act represented the loss of Dren’s innocence. Similar to Adam and Eve eating the apple (having sex) manifesting into the real world – in other words being cast out of Eden and materialising on Earth.

Dren grew too big to hide in the Laboratory and was taken to Elsa’s mother’s farm in the country, where she would complete her development into this new world and become through instinct who she was destined to be. The two scientists still new at parenthood continue their attempt to control Dren, although she is physically stronger and instinctively more inquisitive. Clive and Elsa play a dangerous game of mother and father to a being whose behaviour and actions are driven purely by animal instinct. The scientists’ lack of wisdom in creating Dren becomes clear, not knowing which genes in her conception would become more prominent and rule over her. Film critic, Philip French, makes an educated guess on the direction of Dren’s DNA makeup. “When the pair take their creation to the wintry countryside to be kept in secret at the farm where Elsa was raised, matters go from bad to worst. As Dren metamorphoses she draws her makers into deviant, transgressive behaviour as parents, victims and lovers. What makes Dren so dangerously unpredictable is the human DNA she contains in her make-up, not that derived from animals” (French, 2010). Clive and Elsa re-design the barn to house Dren, while monitoring her every action from the house. Dren almost fully grown begins to focus her sexual yearnings on Clive, who is the only male in her life and world. As a result she sees Elsa as a competitor rather than a parent. This roller-coaster ride instigated by Dren reflects how children interact with their parents, sometimes playing one against the other. The animal within Dren forces her to obey the animalistic laws of nature, so setting her biological clock in-sync with the environment. The human being within her determines the way in which she carries out these animalistic behaviours. This is shown in her ability to metamorphosise, while attempting to explore her surroundings. In a daring leap to escape her confinement Dren climbs on the roof, threatening her parents. While there the wind picks-up, blowing her off the edge of the roof; she displays no fear, anticipating the appearance of wing-like fins from her body to enable her to fly. Clive shouts “don’t leave us, I love you” as she swoops back down, and reciprocates Clive’s hug.

Fig 5, Female Dren, fully grown

Dren’s development has almost reached its pinnacle with one further act to complete - her role as the child is instinctively being transformed into a more creative feminine form, by a hidden force willing her to metamorphosise into the next stage of her evolution. Dren’s urge to reproduce becomes a necessity more than a desire and she goes about this in the same manner as her ‘creators’, as expressed in the Gnostic Bible. “When the chief creator saw that the light was beautiful as it shone forth, he was amazed and very much ashamed. The light appeared and a human likeness was visible within it, and it was marvellous. No one saw it except the chief creator and Forethought, who was with him. But its light was visible to all the powers of the heavens, and so they all were disturbed by it. When Forethought saw this messenger of light, she fell in love with him, but he hated her because she was in darkness. She desired to mate with him, but she was not able. When she was unable to satisfy her desire, she poured out her light upon the earth.” (Meyer, 2008, 178). This quote refers to the chief Creator and Forethought who are one of the same being - the chief Creator being the masculine part and Forethought being the feminine, the world desire is used to explain her emotions in wanting to mate with the being of light, her ‘creator’, but when she could not, it became a necessity to pour her light upon the earth – to give birth, like an aborted foetus. A parallel may be drawn when Clive and Elsa reach the height of their career as scientists and pulled away from their ‘creators’ (the pharmaceutical company) feeling the need to ‘create’ a sentient being through their chosen vocation. Dren at her pinnacle takes on the role of the ‘creator’ Forethought instinctively wants to pull away from her ‘creators’ and embark on her own creation. She does this through Clive who is frustrated with Elsa about the way the whole experiment has unfolded. He becomes vulnerable to Dren’s very powerful and attractive feminine presence within their home and the two mate. Dren cannot grow any further in her existing form having reached her ultimate goal and begins to die. This metamorphosis ushers in the death and resurrection of Dren - for one to be reborn one first has to die. With discarding her old feminine hybrid body, Dren creates a male hybrid body to take her to the next level in her development. A stronger more aggressive Dren emerges on the scene, to accomplish his goal of perpetuating the cycle of his re-creation. Dren although being strong enough to overcome Elsa met her match with Clive and mated with him in order to develop further. Dren through nature, or that unknown force of instinct, had to become male in order to push Clive the father to one side, and mate with Elsa to perpetuate his current existence. With the Oedipus complex now in full motion, the use of a quote from a Yoruba creation story is the simplest way of summing up Dren’s necessity to mate with its ‘creator’. “There being no other persons to marry, Aganju and Yemoja married one another and had a son named Orungan. Orungan is said to have committed incest with his mother. She fled from him in horror, but was hotly pursued by her wicked son, until she fell backward to the ground owing to exhaustion. Streams of water began to pour forth from her body, and these eventually united to form a Lagoon” (Lucas, p 98) Just as Aganju (Earth deity) and Yemoja (Sea deity) married themselves, because there was no one else, Orungan (Sky deity) had no other but his mother to reproduce with so instinctively pursues her. Dren in a similar predicament has always been blinded by its ‘creators’, not being allowed to view the outside world in its entirety, and having none if little interaction with similar species other than with her ‘creators’. So Dren now the male ‘creator’ pursues Elsa, looking to plant in her the seed of his creation to continue his existence. Dren establishes the next step in his development, after raping Elsa and fatally wounding Clive, who with his last remaining breath, kills Dren. This does not matter in the greater scheme of the film of creation through the family, as Dren at this point has reached his pinnacle, so dies again to manifest himself through the impregnation of Elsa with child.
Fig 6, Lion-face deity thought to be Yaldabaoth (Samael), The Demiurge

This quote from the Gnostic Bible summarizes the comparison between the creation mythos of man and the family unit portrayed within Splice. “The leader of the authorities is blind. [Because of his] power, ignorance and arrogance he said, with [power], ‘I am God; there is no other [but me]. When he said this, he sinned against [the realm of the All]. This boast rose up to incorruptibility, and a voice answered from Incorruptibility and said, ‘You are wrong, Samael’ – which means ‘blind god’. His thoughts were blind. He expressed his power – that is, the blasphemy he uttered – and pursued it down to chaos and his mother the Abyss, at the instigation of Pistis Sophia. She established each of his off-spring according to its power, after the pattern of the eternal realms above. For the visible originated from the invisible. Incorruptibility looked down into the region of the waters. Her image appeared as a reflection in the waters, and the authorities of darkness fell in love with her. But they could not grasp the image that appeared to them in the waters, for they were weak, and what is only of soul cannot grasp what is of spirit. For the authorities were from below, but the image of Incorruptibility was from above. This is why Incorruptibility looked down into that region, so that, by the Father’s will, she might bring all into union with the light” (Meyer, 2008, 161). The two scientists where arrogant and blind, and while embarking on their creation failed to acknowledge their own ‘creators’ above them. And in so doing robbed Dren of that rich and nurturing tapestry of an ancestry, blinding her to the scientists’ own ‘creators’, but by the Father’s will within Dren, she metamorphosised into a ‘creator’ herself. Since the Father’s will manifested in Dren as instinct, Dren perpetuates the scientists’ mistakes and continues the act of re-creation, blind to those above her.


Director Vincenzo Natali in his film is successful in accomplishing his goal of using metamorphosis to unite the family unit of Dren and her two creators in representing the creation of man mythos. The two scientists were clearly portrayed as arrogant demi-gods within a greater organism trying to give meaning to their own existence by creating a hybrid life-form, against strict orders. Their extensive knowledge of genetics allowed them to move in leaps and bounds, but their lack of wisdom inhibited them to see no further than the experiment in front of them. The creators who were from creation became creators, completing their cycle of evolution. Dren who represented Adam and Eve was nurtured by the scientists to the best of their knowledge; however her ability to learn and grow surpassed whatever they could teach her. Dren had a divine spark within her, a will or instinct that drove her; something the creators could not control which infuriated them. It is this will which represents the serpent in the garden, that instinct which leads Dren to want to metamorphosise, procreate and evolve into a more advance being. So Dren achieved the pinnacle of her existence through the sexual act, eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and became like a god. “Splice is two thirds of a really interesting movie, more an ethical debate about scientists playing God than a Species-like monster on the loose flick - and that's part of the problem” (Gibron, 2010). No, that is the beauty of this film. It brings the age old story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, represented through parent and child, to a modern audience under the guise of sci-fi metamorphosis.


1. Splice Poster (2010) IMDB. Splice (2009) - IMDb

2. Giuseppe, Cesari. (1597) Oil on copper, Musee du Louvre, Paris.

3. Clive and Elsa, Splice (2010) Screenrant. New ‘Splice’ Trailer Unleashed - Screen Rant

4. Dren, Splice (2010) First look at SPLICE

5. Dren, female, fully grown (2010) scificool. The Creature Of SPLICE |

6. A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem. May be the Demiurge.



Ebert, Roger (2010) Splice,

Eggertsen, Chris (2010) Splice: Director Vincenzo Natali at Sundance,

French, Philip (2010) Splice, Splice | Film review | Film | The Observer

Gibron, Bill (2010) Splice, Splice (2010) - Movie Review

King James, The Holy Bible Authorised Version, London And New York, William Collins And Sons Company Limited, Genesis, Ch 2, v 8, p 8

Lucas, J. Olumide (ed) (2001) The Religion Of The Yorubas, New York, USA, Athelia Henrietta Press, p 98

Meyer, Marvin (ed) (2008) The Gnostic Gospels, London, The Folio Society, p 161, p 178

Thompson, Della (ed) 1992 The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, UK, Clarendon Press. Oxford, p558

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