June 30, 2013


David Cronenberg, 1999

Allegra Geller is a video game designer who is very proud of the new incarnation of her virtual reality game titled "eXistenZ". While showing the game to a group of enthusiastic fans, a mysterious assassin interrupts the presentation. Searching for clues, she figures the only way to get to the bottom of who is after her is to go into her own game and see what she can find.

If The Fifth Element and The Matrix had a baby, it would be eXistenZ. This is a film that perhaps can only be created by Cronenberg. The film is very Cronenbergy; absurd visuals, bizarre stop motion animation similar to his oddball creations in Naked Lunch. At times the film has a very The Fly-like feel to it combined with a very cerebral and intricate story. While a film like History of Violence likely took Cronenberg out of his comfort zone, eXistenZ is a film right in his wheelhouse. It's satirizes humans obsession with technology, specifically with video games and the sense of escapism involved in playing them - but doesn't stop there.  Allegra (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an enigmatic, yet accessible character. Because of the hours spent in seclusion developing her game, she lacks proper social skills and has an odd demeanor to her. When she pairs up with Ted Pikul (Jude Law) to search for the mysterious assassin (or assassins), it's really two opposites coming together. She is the quiet, awkward type and Pikul is the over-cautious extrovert. Jude Law, who is a quite consistent actor, was clearly still working on his American accent while working on this film (the process was quite humorous actually). Cronenberg does a great job of building up the anticipation of actually seeing the virtual world created by Allegra. When you do finally see it, it doesn't disappoint. You enter another dimension and you quickly indulge in the elaborate digital world constructed by Allegra. Just like a video game, the characters even have their A.I. limitations (ie. going off script to an in-game character may throw them off). The comprehensive story maintains it's pace all the way to the climax, and the ending is surprising yet very satisfying. This is a Cronenberg film that probably slipped through the cracks for a lot of people. It reminds me that he's probably one of the more under-rated directors out there. His unusual visual concepts can be compared to Lynch or Burton, and he doesn't just lean heavily on the visuals - with this film specifically he works off of a sophisticated screenplay that should leave viewers feeling satiated. Or at least the ones who like the weird, heady stuff.

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