Saturday, October 15, 2011

Classic Throwback: eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)

Cronenberg has proven successful in the past, and I refer to Videodrome here, when he has examined how humanity has gradually become seduced by and immersed in escapist media and how they react and interact to the advancement of technology that surround them. Have we become tortured souls with the desire to suppress our own reality and live through another? In Videodrome, the influence of television programs is central to the plot and how we frequently desire to live in the reality of what we are watching, and absorbing reality (the example is a snuff film) through a medium. Cronenberg makes it frighteningly aware that we are consistently watching people on television watch television. It was a film ahead of its time.



In the case of his 1999 Silver Bear winner, eXistenZ, the focus is on gaming. In the unspecified future existence the film adopts, gaming has advanced to a point where its creators have installed an interactive experience that can be shared (through a bio-port in the users’ bodies) and influenced by the individual desires of the gamers. Organic virtual reality game consoles known as “game pods” have replaced electronic ones, with this game world one that addicted gamers begin to prefer to their actual existence.

What The Matrix (also released in 1999) did was reveal that all humanity lived in a Matrix, an alternate reality controlled by a computer system, masking their reality, which they were oblivious to. Inception, more recently, established that shared dream states could become so elaborate that dreamers misinterpret their existence, unable to determine whether they are sleeping or awake. Similar premises fuel the surreal action in Cronenberg’s tense science fiction thriller.

In eXistenZ, two game companies, Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics, compete against one another. They are each threatened by a group of ‘Realists’ who are intent on preventing the deforming of reality. Antenna Research’s Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the greatest game designer in the world, is testing her latest virtual reality game, eXistenZ, with a focus group at a seminar. She is shot in the shoulder by an assassin with an organic pistol – one undetected by the security guard (and marketing trainee), Ted Pikul (Jude Law), at the entrance. Law rushes to Geller and escorts her to safety.



In order to repair her pod, which contains the only copy of eXistenZ and was damaged during the assassination attempt, Allegra claims that she must check the status of the game by playing in tandem with someone she can trust. She convinces Ted (who has a phobia about surgical penetration) to have a bio-port installed. They meet a black marketer named Gas (Willem Dafoe), who runs a gas station and he completes the procedure – but not before turning on the pair and threatening to kill Allegra for the bounty placed on her head. Pikul shoots the man, and the pair lay low in the ski lodge of Allegra’s mentor, Kiri Vinokur (Ian Holm), where they eventually enter the game. Now, this is where things get really interesting.

The film is initially pretty confusing, throwing the viewers straight into the world and offering little explanation. But through these odd encounters, and especially during the game, details about the way that the game masks reality (Ted finds it difficult to tell whether his actions inside the game are his own intentions or the game’s) and how we react to the gaming experience is slowly revealed. As a result of the quick start, there is lots of exposition thrown in to allow Ted to understand the gaming world (and us too) and why the Realists want Allegra dead.


Ted has never played a game before, so it’s interesting to watch him and Allegra decipher how to move through the game. I’m not going to ruin any of what transpires during the game, which commences from about the 30-minute mark, because it is a disservice to a fresh viewer, but it is pretty surreal. They become workers at a game pod factory, where they meet a man named Yevgeny Nourish (Don McKellar), and eventually Ted builds a weapon out of the bones taken from his meal (such a great scene). eXistenZ is bizarre, multilayered, and often grotesque.

Much like in Naked Lunch, the world of the game is given this grimy appearance, which is accentuated by some clever lighting compositions and naturalistic exterior camerawork. It is meant to appear different to what we originally perceived as reality (the seminar, and the gas station). The film is a little slow to set-up but once it kicks into gear - entering the game - it is full of interesting ideas and like most Cronenberg, is a pretty wild ride. The film’s final 10 minutes, which adds surprising twists, are even more bizarre. I’m not going to pretend to know what it all meant, but I respect Cronenberg for his original and bold vision. The man sure knows a lot about contemporary media.



All of the tech work is great – from the gory visual effects to Howard Shore’s score. With the exception of Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who are great, the film is comprised mostly of odd cameos – with the characters speaking in cliché ‘game dialogue’ for the most part, but enjoying playing with accents and being over-the-top.

When I worked through Cronenberg earlier in the year, this was one of his films I didn’t see. I don’t know why. I regret it now. While I don’t think it stands amongst his best films – Videodrome, The Fly, Crash and more recently A History of Violence – this is still intelligent and highly original filmmaking. I’m sure there are many out there who prefer eXistenZ to The Matrix. In some ways, I do too. Also, viewers familiar with eXistenZ, would have recognized the similarities in Inception.


My Rating: ★★★★ (B)

96 comments:

  1. Wow. I remember myself browsing this film's IMDb page but I was totally uninterested. You just opened my eyes to the fact that I probably miss a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How I know I'm old: Films that I distinctly remember in theatres being called "classic." :) It's been a while since I saw eXistenZ, but I remember really liking it - probably my first Cronenberg film, though I wouldn't have known who Cronenberg was at the time. I was just like "virtual reality video game movie? COOL!" I should definitely rewatch it soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I watched it for the Cronenberg Director's Chair and was just pleasantly surprised at how underrated it is. It's a thriller that just keeps going and wasn't afraid to not take itself so seriously. It's a very original yet daring film.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Lesya - I know the feeling. There are so many times I have seen a DVD in the store and thought: "nahh, I'll never watch that" only to find myself watching it. Haha. Give it a go, but maybe watch some other Cronenberg first. Videodrome and The Fly are good places to start.

    @ Jandy - Haha. I know. I decided that anything I watch released before 2000 I am going to call a 'classic' haha. I don't remember this at the cinemas and didn't even know it was Cronenberg until I started working through his films this year. Glad I got to see this one. Very provocative film.

    @ Steven - Yeah, it's super original and very effective in relaying the blurring of reality that gaming provides. It's got some bizarre twists that left me confused, but overall this film is just cool.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow! Such an amazing and helpful post this is. I really really love it. It's so good and so awesome. I am just amazed. I hope that you continue to do your work like this in the future also. Broward Criminal Lawyer

    ReplyDelete
  6. You might comment on the order system of the blog. You should chat it's splendid. Your blog audit would swell up your visitors. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! gemstone healing

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have express a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorite’s blog site list and will be checking back soon… color changing mugs

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have express a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorite’s blog site list and will be checking back soon… Her Lies Poster

    ReplyDelete
  9. I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!.. smart coffee maker

    ReplyDelete
  10. This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! MASK WITH COOL PRINTS

    ReplyDelete
  11. Super site! I am Loving it!! Will return once more, Im taking your food likewise, Thanks. author

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your music is amazing. You have some very talented artists. I wish you the best of success. Baby Shoes

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nice blog and absolutely outstanding. You can do something much better but i still say this perfect.Keep trying for the best. net jett

    ReplyDelete
  14. It is the intent to provide valuable information and best practices, including an understanding of the regulatory process. Nail polish cruelty free

    ReplyDelete
  15. I curious more interest in some of them hope you will give more information on this topics in your next articles. bike pools

    ReplyDelete
  16. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot! anointing oils

    ReplyDelete
  17. I really enjoy reading and also appreciate your work. Social Media Manager

    ReplyDelete
  18. This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! Gentle sleep coach

    ReplyDelete
  19. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    Swag!

    ReplyDelete
  20. wow... what a great blog, this writter who wrote this article it's realy a great blogger.
    shirts for men!

    ReplyDelete
  21. wow... what a great blog, this writter who wrote this article it's realy a great blogger.
    Node MCU!

    ReplyDelete
  22. wow... what a great blog, this writter who wrote this article it's realy a great blogger.
    sports bra

    ReplyDelete
  23. wow... what a great blog, this writter who wrote this article it's realy a great blogger.
    yoga pants!

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion.spa derma roller!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I read a article under the same title some time ago, but this articles quality is much, much better. How you do this
    gastronomiebedarf!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I read a article under the same title some time ago, but this articles quality is much, much better. How you do this
    gartenmöbelgeschäft!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I finally found great post here.I will get back here. I just added your blog to my bookmark sites. thanks.Quality posts is the crucial to invite the visitors to visit the web page, that's what this web page is providing. Free Books PDF

    ReplyDelete
  28. I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research.CAR ACCESSORIES

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research.ELECTRONICS ACCESSORIES

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thanks for sharing good content! you content writer have good knowlegLEATHER BELTS ACCESSORIES!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Three are usually cheap Ralph Lauren available for sale each and every time you wish to buy.Essentials!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Nice Article!
    Thanks for this type of information. That blog is realy helpfull to me.tattoo inspired !

    ReplyDelete
  33. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    Amazon mytv

    ReplyDelete
  34. This is a fantastic website , thanks for sharing.
    ifts for golfer!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    IPL Hair Removal !

    ReplyDelete
  36. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    hotspot unlimited

    ReplyDelete
  37. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    Home decore!

    ReplyDelete
  38. wow... what a great blog, this writer who wrote this article it's really a great blogger.
    LEATHER JACKETS

    ReplyDelete
  39. wow... what a great blog, this writter who wrote this article it's realy a great blogger.
    copycat fragrances

    ReplyDelete
  40. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. Watches

    ReplyDelete
  41. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. خرید آپارتمان در تهران

    ReplyDelete
  42. wow... what a great blog, this writer who wrote this article it's really a great blogger.
    mens underwear

    ReplyDelete
  43. wow... what a great blog, this writer who wrote this article it's really a great blogger.
    made in italy

    ReplyDelete
  44. I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates. Boohoo

    ReplyDelete
  45. Very nice blog and articles. I am realy very happy to visit your blog. Now I am found which I actually want. I check your blog everyday and try to learn something from your blog. Thank you and waiting for your new post. Beauty Supplies for Woman of Color

    ReplyDelete
  46. you content is very effective and knowledgable. thanks for share good content
    Fitness apparel

    ReplyDelete
  47. Thanks for sharing good content at your blog
    Delight Gamers

    ReplyDelete
  48. With so many books and articles coming up to give gateway to make-money-online field and confusing reader even more on the actual way of earning money, where to buy saniderm in stores

    ReplyDelete
  49. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. Womens Sandal

    ReplyDelete
  50. I was taking a gander at some of your posts on this site and I consider this site is truly informational! Keep setting up.. Makeup brushes

    ReplyDelete
  51. I have bookmarked your website because this site contains valuable information in it. I am really happy with articles quality and presentation. Thanks a lot for keeping great stuff. I am very much thankful for this site. Executive Search

    ReplyDelete
  52. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. erotic shop

    ReplyDelete
  53. You actually make it look so easy with your performance but I find this matter to be actually something which I think I would never comprehend. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I'm looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it! meaningful wear

    ReplyDelete
  54. You might comment on the order system of the blog. You should chat it's splendid. Your blog audit would swell up your visitors. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! Gold

    ReplyDelete
  55. I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post
    muslim charities uk

    ReplyDelete
  56. There's no doubt i would fully rate it after i read what is the idea about this article. You did a nice job.. cbd massage lotion

    ReplyDelete
  57. Thanks for the informative and helpful post, obviously in your blog everything is good.. ugg

    ReplyDelete
  58. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    esthetic hair turkey

    ReplyDelete
  59. This is really very nice post you shared, i like the post, thanks for sharing.. uggs

    ReplyDelete
  60. Three are usually cheap Ralph Lauren available for sale each and every time you wish to buy. herbal tea

    ReplyDelete
  61. I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. medical marijuana

    ReplyDelete
  62. This is an awesome motivating article.I am practically satisfied with your great work.You put truly extremely supportive data. Keep it up. Continue blogging. Hoping to perusing your next post Resume Writer Charlotte NC

    ReplyDelete
  63. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work hunting-safaris

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hi to everybody, here everyone is sharing such knowledge, so it’s fastidious to see this site, and I used to visit this blog daily Cracked Softwares

    ReplyDelete
  65. Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up. touch tone telephone lyrics

    ReplyDelete
  66. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, peruvian hair bundles

    ReplyDelete
  67. I see some amazingly important and kept up to length of your strength searching for in your on the site fence contractors atlanta

    ReplyDelete
  68. I think I have never seen such blogs ever before that has complete things with all details which I want. So kindly update this ever for us. illinois solar incentives

    ReplyDelete
  69. Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work! halal products

    ReplyDelete
  70. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the good work. I have been meaning to write something like this on my website and you have given me an idea. Top 5 Best Hair and Beauty Salons near me Accra, Ghana

    ReplyDelete
  71. Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. CBD Wellness

    ReplyDelete
  72. First You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics, i will be always checking your blog thanks. Betriebszeichen

    ReplyDelete
  73. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it! LOOSE WAVE

    ReplyDelete
  74. I see some amazingly important and kept up to length of your strength searching for in your on the site Speekseltest

    ReplyDelete
  75. I found Hubwit as a transparent s ite, a social hub which is a conglomerate of Buyers and Sellers who are ready to offer online digital consultancy at decent cost. Top Wedding Planners Orlando Florida

    ReplyDelete
  76. Wow, thanks to this tutorial, I have the info needed for my blog. Finally made it, yeah!
    trasteros en alquiler

    ReplyDelete
  77. Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. seo agency

    ReplyDelete
  78. You re in point of fact a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you're doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a fantastic activity on this subject! Best Ecommerce Website builder

    ReplyDelete
  79. I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.
    trasteros en alquiler

    ReplyDelete
  80. I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.
    1000 baby girl names

    ReplyDelete
  81. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative
    speedtest

    ReplyDelete
  82. All software keys and crack download here

    ReplyDelete
  83. Good to become visiting your weblog again, it has been months for me. Nicely this article that i've been waited for so long. I will need this post to total my assignment in the college, and it has exact same topic together with your write-up. Thanks, good share. farmer refuted lyrics

    ReplyDelete
  84. This post is good enough to make somebody understand this amazing thing, and I’m sure everyone will appreciate this interesting things. all of me lyrics

    ReplyDelete
  85. Just pure brilliance from you here. I have never expected something less than this from you and you have not disappointed me at all. I suppose you will keep the quality work going on. save dat money lyrics

    ReplyDelete
  86. You have done a amazing job with you website.
    access control system

    ReplyDelete
  87. Nice blog Admin!. Your content is very informative and helpful.
    Best and Free Online certification courses

    ReplyDelete
  88. I think the information I gathered from this article is very useful.
    Pharmacy Technician Certification Course online

    ReplyDelete
  89. Thanks for share good content. Please watch this video:
    Pharmacy tech classes

    ReplyDelete
  90. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it! Vegan catering nyc

    ReplyDelete
  91. I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this place dog cage

    ReplyDelete
  92. I think I have never seen such blogs ever before that has complete things with all details which I want. So kindly update this ever for us. cricket gifts

    ReplyDelete