In Crash, television producer James Ballard (played by David Spader) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) lead complex, if hollow, sexual lives. Following a near-fatal head-on collision with Dr Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), whose husband is killed in the accident, Ballard and the doctor meet in the recovery room of a hospital and are inexplicably drawn into the bizarre world of scientist and photographer Vaughan (Elias Koteas). Vaughan is a specialist in restaging celebrity car crashes like the one that caused the death of James Dean in 1955, and introduces them to a disturbing type of sexual experience. An intentionally controversial film, Crash (1996) is neither pornographic nor dull, as its many critics have claimed, but rather a strange and insightful film about human sexual compulsion. Intensely anti-erotic and surprisingly witty, it's a cerebral ride, an end-of-the-millennium meditation on sex, death and alienation.
Directed and adapted by David Cronenberg from J.G. Ballard's phantasmagorical 1973 novel, Crash will certainly repel and disgust many viewers; nevertheless, it is challenging, courageous and entirely original. It has been awarded Genie Awards for best director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, editing, and sound editing, and it won the Golden Reel Award for the top-grossing Canadian film of 1996. At the Cannes Film Festival it won a Special Jury Prize over the objections of jury president Francis Ford Coppola.