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What is the meaning behind the masks in Infinity Pool?

Infinity Pool movie masks

Infinity Pool is without question one of the best and most unnerving horror movies of the year. Holiday goers are invited to explore the mythical coastal nation of Li Tolqa where, just like any 5* resort, you will find white beaches, impeccable services, and decadent breakfast spreads.

However, should you choose to venture just outside the gated walls of your luxury resort, you will find a country in the clutches of abject poverty and authoritarian governance. But fear not, you are not a poor local, you are a wealthy tourist. And tourists are permitted to perform any illegal, sordid, or depraved act their heart desires. Just as long as they have the money to pay their way out of trouble.

Much like the characters of Infinity Pool, we are left feeling like we have gone through something of a transformation ourselves once the credits roll. This is an unsettling, psychedelic, nauseous, at times beautiful, at others deeply disturbing dive into the very core of the depraved human psyche.

What is the overall message behind Infinity Pool? What does Li Tolqa represent and what is the significance of those grotesque masks? We have a few ideas.

What is the meaning of Infinity Pool?

Infinity Pool explores themes related to identity, morality, and hedonism. At the core of the movie is the question: What happens when we can expect zero ramifications for our actions? Do we continue to act as moral and upstanding members of society, as is the case with Em? Or do we descend into a pit of hedonism and violence, with no regard for how our actions impact those around us?

Given that the vast majority of Infinity Pool’s characters fall into this latter character, it’s pretty clear which side the movie’s director falls on. When money allows us to quite literally buy our way out of trouble, we can expect some pretty dire consequences.

For Bex, Alban, and the rest of the vacation regulars the fictional coastal nation of Li Tolqa represents a reprieve from reality. A safe place where they can act out their most violent and hedonistic tendencies. However, when the conversations return to the normal and mundane as the group travels back to the airport, it becomes clear that they are able to entirely compartmentalize their time in Li Tolqa and their regular lives.

For James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) the ending is a little different. Unable to separate himself from the events of the past two weeks, he opts not to return to his everyday life with Em and instead chooses to stay behind, presumably so he can continue to act on his depraved instincts unchecked.

Many viewers have rightly drawn parallels between Infinity Pool and the world of ‘The Purge’. Both movies explore the question of whether morality is naturally ingrained within us or if it is, in fact, imposed by the laws and expectations that govern civilized society. Essentially it is a question of nature versus nurture. Both movies paint a pretty pessimistic picture of what it really means to be ‘human’.

What is the meaning behind the masks?

Although the movie director, Brandon Cronenberg, has provided no concrete answer regarding the symbolism behind the masks in Infinity Pool, it is safe to assume that they are linked to the film’s broader themes of identity and hedonism. The masks quite literally allow the characters to embody different personas.

Li Tolqa’s unique doubling procedure provides hitherto unimagined freedom for those who can afford it. A freedom the characters take full advantage of to act out their most basic and animalistic instincts.

Strictly speaking, there is no need for the group to mask their identities. Even if they were caught red-handed stealing, intimidating, and even killing, they could simply buy their way out of trouble. Instead, the masks in this instance serve a different purpose.

Much like the outfits worn in The Purge, the masks in Infinity Pool serve a pseudo-religious purpose. They allow the characters to ‘transform’ into their alter ego. The twisted and animalistic nature of the masks makes it even easier to shed their human sides, along with any feelings of guilt, empathy, or compassion.

As to a deeper meaning behind the masks, we have a few compelling theories.

Infinity Pool: Employee masks
The employees of the resort wearing the same masks

Theory #1: The Corrupting Influences of Globalisation

It is interesting to note that the masks worn by the main characters of Infinity Pool were not made by them. Instead, they were bought at the resort gift shop. In fact, one of the first scenes of Infinity Pool shows the resort employees wearing these masks while serving the guests a continental breakfast.

According to the resort manager, these masks actually serve an important role in an annual local tradition that represents rebirth and new life. After explaining their significance, he ends his speech by telling the guests not to forget to pick up their own masks at the gift shop. So what? What is the significance of this?

Well, Li Tolqa is clearly a poor nation. One that is trying to improve its economy by attracting wealthy outside tourists. This need for outside tourism has even gone so far as to corrupt the local legal system. As explained by the lead police officer, the whole doubling process was designed to boost tourism and diplomatic ties (while making a “significant sum of money” in the process).

What we see is the bastardization of the local rituals, traditions, and societal norms, all in the pursuit of money in a globalized economy. This theory is supported by other forms of cultural appropriation featured in the movie. The ‘authentic’ Chinese restaurant that James Foster derides, the Bollywood dancing scene that feels so out of place, and the insulting Jewish costumes that are briefly glimpsed as the group prepares to leave.

Cultural appropriation has been a contentious issue for a long time now. Is it a natural process of globalization or a diluting of localized traditions? The Infinity Pool masks show what happens when a cultural tradition is perverted in the name of tourism and money.

Theory #2: A Picture of Dorian Gray

In 1890, Oscar Wilde caused quite a stir in Victorian England with the release of his novella, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Although now considered a literary classic, the ultra-conservative British aristocracy was outraged by its candid descriptions of hedonism and excess.

The story centers on a deeply vain man who wishes his youthful good looks would last forever. His wish is soon granted when an artist paints a portrait of Dorian that will age instead of him. Realizing that no matter what he does, nothing can damage his beauty, Dorian quickly descends into a life of increasingly depraved violence, lust, and hedonism.

Locked away in the attic, the portrait of Dorian Gray continues to age, scar, and deform just as Dorian should. In the climax of the book, Dorian is confronted with the horror of what he has become. Although his face is still outwardly young and handsome, his portrait has been warped and twisted beyond recognition. It is the portrait that shows who Dorian really is on the inside. A monstrous and irredeemable animal.

Parallels can easily be drawn between Wilde’s masterpiece and Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool. In essence, it is the twisted masks that are the true visage of these characters. The normal faces that they wear outside of Li Tolqa are the real masks.

Four-eyed mask

Theory #3: The Seven Deadly Sins

This theory was first put forth by Redditor SylvieXandra. Each of the Infinity Pool masks is designed to represent the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, greed, wrath, lust, envy, gluttony, and sloth.

This theory is supported by the design of at least a couple of the masks. One mask features coins literally spilling from the mouth. Quite a compelling representation of greed, wouldn’t you say? Meanwhile, the mask worn by Bex (played by Caroline Boulton) is contorted into an unsettling and seductive kissing expression. This would certainly match Bex’s characterization. If each of the characters is meant to represent one of the seven deadly sins, then Bex is surely lust.

As for Alexander Skarsgard’s character, James Foster, an argument could be made for any one of the seven sins. However, perhaps one of the most compelling arguments could be made for sloth. This is a “writer” who hasn’t put pen to paper for six years, was perhaps only ever published with help from his influential father-in-law, and seems perfectly content to live entirely off his wife’s money. In that instance, the pig mask that he wears would fit perfectly.

It is certainly a compelling theory. What do you think? Do any of the other Infinity Pool masks fit the characterization of the other group members?

Who designed the masks for Infinity Pool?

The masks in Infinity Pool were designed by Richard Raaphorst. Richard has previously worked on other movies such as Frankenstein’s Army, Who Am I?, and Shiny New World.

According to Infinity Pool director, Raaphorst was brought on because of his “great aesthetic” and fantastic work as a filmmaker, comic artist, and concept artist.