eXistenZ, David Cronenberg 1999


It’s funny reading my past review on Crash, Cronenberg’s work before eXistenZ, to realize how the director moves from one register to a completely different one without effort, being the first weird, slow and suffocating, to a super dynamic and interesting  movie which fits into sci-fi genre perfect such as eXistenZ.

To be honest with many   Cronenberg’s films it takes me two times to really enjoy the product I’m watching, maybe I’m a bit short minded and I need an extra effort to get fiction-reality duality so often present and  relevant in his works. This happened again with eXistenZ, first time I felt completely indifferent and cold, however the more I watch it the more appealing and cool I find it.

Probably at the time it was released the concept of virtual reality was very hot, the possibility of enjoying a game as if it was for real was too shocking and sounded sci-fi to everybody. As time goes by, virtual reality is becoming more evident and is constantly evolving to reach the final goal, the perfect game in which the player feels as part of the game, as sourrounded  by the scenario with real characters and situations so greatly recreated as to feel you’re living that experience for real.

Stop wandering about virtual reality and let’s concentrate on the movie.

Antenna Research is about to release the  latest creation by the queen of virtual reality games, designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh). As a presentation, a select group of people are invited to have a session with the shy designer who will guide the chosen ones into the amazing world of eXistenZ.

Unfortunately during the session a young boy attempts against her life using a weird pistol made of bones which shots human teeth, hurting her in the shoulder. In the middle of chaos she’s able to run away with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul (Jude Law), and together hide in a motel room trying to recover from shock, analyze situation and decide what to do.

Are you friendly?

Are you friendly?

Allegra carries her freak pod with eXistenZ only version of the program and needs to check out whether the program has been damaged by playing eXistenZ with somebody friendly, however Pikul, has an aversion to being penetrated by a pod plug into his body and has no bio port installed at the back of his body, thus in order to help Allegra he accepts to look for a gas station boy (Willem Defoe) to insert it illegally.

Things won’t be easy for them to find out whether the program is ok for Allegra’s head has a prize  and many people are interested in getting the reward.

Obviously with the development of the movie you find out why everybody is trying to kill her, the explanation for the organic gun and you will understand so tiny details once you know how it ends. That’s why it is so cool to watch this movie several times, you keep on noticing and sensing details that for the very first time may you  think irrelevant or weird, but have sense once you see it complete.

eXistenZ  is an attempt to recreate a virtual videogame, in fact the scenes in which Pikul and Allegra are playing in the game are really cool, the way  after each scene the setting changes radically, even the behavior of the two players is exaggerated, the way they stand, how they are dressed…these are so bizarre and weird scenes so Cronenberg stamped!


It’s curious and I  hadn’t thought about it till last view, how the places they go to are just called what they are, the motel, the gas station, the Chinese restaurant…the way games were designed time ago, no brands nor names appeared at all, maybe nowadays this has changed for marketing strategies and sponsorship are beyond TV and press ads. Also names for main characters are very exotic, compared to daily life names such as Peter, Joe or Linda. These are a couple of examples of typical devices or features for videogames, also applied to the film.

Reminding of Videodrome,  Cronenberg exploits fiction-reality duality to its most, and he does it  brilliantly, not only allowing the audience to discover that the main plot was part of a game, but also ending the film with a conclusion that leaves the audience doubting if the “real” characters are still living in the reality of another game or the actual reality….Terrific!!

One Response to “eXistenZ, David Cronenberg 1999”

  1. rockenberg Says:

    Awesome movie!!! Great review!

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