Infinity Pool takes place in the made-up country of Li Tolqa, which is poor and religiously conservative and home to a string of luxury resorts whose customers are neither. Played onscreen by parts of Croatia and Hungary, Li Tolqa is infused with a vague otherness that stands in for places all over the world where tourists exist in a different reality with different rules than that of the residents. At the Pa Qlqa Pearl Princess, where unsuccessful novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) is moping through a stay with his moneyed wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), the staffers are smiling and solicitous. A local man barges onto the property, riding angrily up and down the beach in a quad bike — “Making a statement,” as another guest, Gabi (Mia Goth), observes archly. At first, the guarded, razor-wire-topped walls around the place seem to offer protection against hostility like that. But after James and Em fall in with Gabi and her partner, Alban (Jalil Lespert), repeat visitors who entice them on a day trip to a nearby cove, those fences feel less intended to keep the native Li Tolqans out than to keep the tourists in.
Infinity Pool is the third and the best film to date from Brandon Cronenberg, whose nepo-baby bona fides are obvious, but who’s also been admirably unafraid to invite comparisons to his famous father by working in the same sci-fi-body-horror realm. Cronenberg the younger does have his own obsessions, among them the idea of a sleekly globalized world traipsed through by the unmoored elite. His last film, the 2020 body-swapping assassin thriller Possessor, took place in an alternate Toronto, a pulsing yet oppressively generic corporate capital. All that commerce had denatured the city, leaving behind glass towers populated by a caste of nationless modern-day aristocrats and their retinues. Infinity Pool’s Li Tolqa is effectively where those same people would holiday. Over dinner at a Chinese restaurant run entirely by Li Tolqans, Alban reveals that he’s Swiss by way of Paris, while Gabi is from London, though they now live in Los Angeles, where he runs a journal called Glass Pane and she acts in advertisements. Em, Australian, and James (who has that flat American accent Skarsgård has plucked from no region that actually exists) are from the same privileged caste.