Existenz

"Good"

Existenz Review


Abandon the deep-seeded sexual-social metaphors and waterdown the ick factor, and DavidCronenberg's "eXistenZ" could be aSci-Fi Channel movie.

Something of a cautionary tale about the future of virtualreality, featuring seamless multiple-layer story-within-story scenarios,Cronenberg's foundation here is the kind of what-is-reality? plot linethat has also been the basis of dozens of "Outer Limits" episodesand several recent feature films ("Dark City," "TheMatrix").

But because "eXistenZ" has been born of the mindof North America's most intelligent, off-the-wall auteur, there's so muchmore going on here, including themes of terrorism, experimental sexualityand humanity merging with technology (and vice versa).

The film takes place in a near and still familiar future,in which organic technology has supplanted the cold, impersonal computersof today. Most everyone has been surgically fitted with new orifices inthe smalls of their backs to directly interface the central nervous system(through fleshy, veiny umbilical cords) with the mind-invading games whichhave become a common part of everyday life.

Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Allegra Gellar the designerof a revolutionary game run on bio-engineered "metaflesh" pods,in which the participants help form the program. The game writes itselfthrough the minds of the players.

Opening at a secret, high-security test-marketing eventfor the new game called "eXistenZ," Cronenberg slides betweenreality and virtual reality with such seamless morphing that it is sometimesintentionally unclear what world the characters are in.

When the event is violently attacked by reality-espousingextremists, Allegra -- a cult figure in gaming circles and the target ofthe attack -- goes on the run with Ted Pikul (Jude Law), an apprehensivesecurity wonk assigned to protect her.

Under the assumption that there must have been a turncoatin the testing group, and with her game pod (an incognizant lump of livingtissue) injured in the assault and dying, Allegra persuades a reluctant"virgin" Ted to get retrofitted with a bioport so he can plugin to the game and help her search the remnants of the other players input,hoping to discover who set her up to be killed.

In the game, Allegra and Ted are cast as reality terroriststhemselves, and are lead through a surreal and ever-changing approximationof the secretive and gruesome industry that creates the "metapods."They seek out their answers in an unsanitary hatchery where the pods aregrown from mutated amphibians, and back in the real world (or is it?) theydrop in on a fellow gamer (Ian Holm) who tries to save Allegra's pod ina graphic surgery (barf bag, please).

"eXistenZ" is quintessential Cronenberg. Hisfixation with body mutilation (the bioports, biological guns made fromhalf-decayed body parts) and sexuality (the "UmbyCords" slishinginto the bioports) are the kind of inherently disturbing concepts and imagesthat mainstream moviegoers often can't handle unless presented as camp,like in a horror movie.

But Cronenberg, of course, has so much more in mind thanjust creeping people out. He immerses us in his eccentric, innovative (and,yes, sometimes gruesome) vision, assuming his audience is intelligent enoughto understand it. Stylistically and intellectually "eXistenZ"is the opposite of the similarly-themed -- but ultimately dumbed down --"Matrix." Although early on the picture gives off the air ofcorny science fiction, the director's envelope-pushing, high IQ conceptsdistance this film from its comic book anchoring.

Anchoring the film in another way is Leigh's evasivelypowerful performance as Allegra, the designer who has spent so much timein her own games that she has developed an unnatural detachment from heremotions.

The sci-fi silliness is always just one misstep away, soI spent whole sections of the movie worrying that it was going to turndumb on me at any moment. But with a final, surprise torque on the twistingstory, "eXistenZ" justifies itself with a powerful payoff thatmakes some (although not much) sense of everything that came before it.



Existenz

Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd April 1999

Box Office Worldwide: $2.9M

Budget: $15M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: Alliance Atlantis Communications, Natural Nylon Entertainment, Serendipity Point Films, Téléfilm Canada, The Harold Greenberg Fund, The Movie Network, Union Générale Cinématographique

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 45 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Allegra Geller, as Ted Pikul, as Kiri Vinokur, as Gas, as Yevgeny Nourish, Oscar Hsu as Chinese Waiter, as Hugo Carlaw, as Seminar Leader, as Merle, Robert A. Silverman as D'Arcy Nader, Kris Lemche as Noel Dichter, as Male Assistant, as Female Assistant, James Kirchner as Landry, Balázs Koós as Male Volunteer, Stephanie Belding as Female Volunteer, as Trout Farm Worker

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.