Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Willem Dafoe, Don McKellar
Director: David Cronenberg
Walt Disney Studios / Dimension Films
Rated R for strong sci-fi violence and gore, and for language
Fans of indie and cult film director David Cronenberg know he’s no stranger to the bizarre and the existential. His proclivity of exploring the psychological and physical nature of existence, most commonly through the horror and science fiction genres, has made Cronenberg one of the most complex and revered modern-day filmmakers. With eXistenZ, Cronenberg examines the nature of video games and human interaction in a movie that is slowly becoming eerily prophetic. eXistenZ is certainly a thrill ride of philosophical proportions, and is one of Cronenberg’s best and most underrated films. eXistenZ is now available digitally exclusive on VUDU (it’s not available on Blu-ray anywhere!) and is part of our $2 for 2 Nights program. Rent eXistenZ starting at just $2 in SD, HD, and HDX!
eXistenZ stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Allegra Geller, the pre-eminent virtual reality video game designer of her time. During the testing of her latest game with a focus group, an assassin (Kris Lemche) for a group of “realists” who decry video games as a “distortion of reality” attempts to murder Allegra. When he fails, she goes on the run with Ted Pikul (Jude Law) a marketing intern for her game who all of a sudden becomes her bodyguard. During the chaos, her gaming “pod” holding the only copy of her game is damaged. She convinces Ted to join her in inspecting her game by playing it. The game takes them on a strange adventure, to the point where the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred.
Those who know the work of David Cronenberg know he can bring the bizarre into an otherwise normal world. eXistenZ is no exception. His use of strange, organic-based weapons, biological gaming pods, and mutant animals in this movie often creates an atmosphere of confusion and wonder (in a good way) for the audience. In the way that the characters in the movie are puzzled by shifting realities and fantasies, so too is the audience perplexed by wondering if what they are seeing is meant to be real or fantasy. Cronenberg’s movies have never been easy to comprehend, but the story and the material he lays out for everyone creates such a spectacle that the audience cannot help but be entertained. It is fascinating to watch him masterfully create these worlds and then take us along for the ride.
Cronenberg has always been one to provide a commentary on the world around him with his films. With eXistenZ, his views on video games at the end of the 1990s would prove to be eerily predictive given today’s video game culture. While eXistenZ taps into an idea that hasn’t yet been achieved, one has to wonder how far off we are from Cronenberg’s vision. In eXistenZ, his video game device links the game directly into the human body, creating a completely immersive universe where the person is the video game character. Given today’s video games, it’s interesting to see how people become more and more integrated with the game they’re playing. Whether it is Nintendo’s Wii Fit™, Microsoft’s Kinect™, or even Dance Dance Revolution™, more and more video games are becoming reliant on the physical actions of the player rather than the use of a controller or joystick. Video games are often criticized by parents for taking over their children’s lives. In a sense, Cronenberg’s vision of a society where people are obsessed with fantasy has already come true. Cronenberg’s eXistenZ was overlooked by almost everyone upon its initial release, but now’s the perfect time to watch this master of cinema deliver one of his most visually daring pieces of work.
DID YOU KNOW?
Jennifer Jason Leigh had filmed a role in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut prior to beginning eXistenZ. When Kubrick decided to do reshoots of her scenes, Leigh declined to return to the movie since it interfered with the shooting schedule of eXistenZ. Kubrick ultimately decided to recast her role.