Monday, April 30, 2012

Cronenberg's earlier "eXistenZ" makes real and game life interchangeable


Canadian director David Cronenberg has an earlier thriller, “eXistenZ”, 1999, from (TWC) Dimension Films and Alliance Atlantis, that provides another exercise in migration among different states of being and that questions our normal sense of identity and reality.

At some point in the future, people have ports for “bio-implants” into their lower spines, physically rather like USB ports on computers (which did not exist yet in 1999). Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has designed a game, “eXistenZ”, and at a market test session (conducted with security, rather like the opening of “Sound of My Voice”, below) she is shot by a gamer with a bizarre “organic weapon”.

She goes on the lam with a company trainee Ted Pikul (Jude Law), who says he is sensitive about his both and being “penetrated”.  (He remains well zipped up during the film.)  But he accepts the bio-game-port connection, and soon the pair are on an adventure where they cannot tell what is inside and outside the game.  The plot device reminds one of “going inside the website” in a 2002 movie “Fear Dot Com”. 

There’s no thimble here, like in “Inception”, to tell you if you’re back to “reality”.

The game components involve various pulpous masses (as game ports) that look like living things and give Cronenberg a chance to wield his talent for showing the demons from our dreams.  In a scene in a Chinese restaurant, Ted reconstructs the “organic weapon” from the food. 

The script has some great lines, like:

“I like your script. I want to be in it.”

“Nobody physically skis anymore.  You know that.”

“I feel very worried about my body. I’m vulnerable, disembodied”.  (There was a horror film about voodoo called “The Disembodied” in 1957, from Allied Artists, that used to play on a Saturday night “Chiller” program.)

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