James Ballard (James Spader) is a movie director and married to the beautiful Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger). They are sexually open and compete for orgasms and conquests with lovers other than each other. When James experiences a serious car accident that leaves him with severe leg injuries, he becomes involved with the other crash victim’s wife, Helen (Holly Hunter). She introduces him to the world of car crash fetish and Vaughan (Elias Koteas), a specialist in traffic systems interested in body modification by technology and something more specific. His new project involves the psychopathology, intensity and liberation of sexual energy that results in death and car crashes. He is somewhat of a cult leader and a prophet, recreating famous crashes of celebrities in the back alleys of Toronto for a niche audience of this fetish that flirts with death every time those who partake are aroused. James becomes a part of Vaughan’s core group and brings in Catherine, who is more than interested. She’s turned on by the thought of James and Vaughan together, and each crash becomes an entrancing, erotic courtship for them all—a specialized pornography that takes them to unexplored pleasures. The sexual stakes get higher as they use vehicles for their exploits and look for the ultimate crash that may not evade them for much longer.
One of David Cronenberg’s more controversial films, Crash, is an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1973 psycho-sexual novel. Full of fetish, cold eroticism and voyeurism, the film famously shocked critics and movie-goers worldwide in 1996. With ratings officials losing their minds over depictions of sex outside the norms at that time, the film experienced many hurdles to play in cinemas. The ensemble cast of Koteas, Spader, Rosanna Arquette, Hunter and Unger created unforgettable characters who move through the movie in a lustful trance, looking for something to outdo the last thrill experienced. Subversive and unexpected, Crash is a film with a special place in cinematic history.