DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: EXISTENZ

Saturday 23 June 2007


eXistenZ (1999) dir. David Cronenberg
Starring: Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Don McKellar, Willem Dafoe


“eXistenZ” is one of the rare failures for David Cronenberg. Though I didn’t like “Crash” I think it succeeded as a controversial conversation starter, and all around kinky mood-piece. But “eXistenZ,” which appears to have been made to be a more mainstream and accessible film, unfortunately fails on most levels.

Set in the future Allegra Gellar (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a new age game designer – virtual reality-type games played via the organic processes of the body. She is demonstrating a new version of her game to a test group. Allegra’s new gaming techniques have made her a celebrity, but she has also created a legion of radical dissidents, called “Realists” who disapprove of the unethical aspects of the game. The “Realists” infiltrate the test and manage to kill off a few of the gamers, but Allegra and her PR man, Ted Pikul (Jude Law) manage to escape. While on the run Allegra and Ted enter the game to try and recover lost data from the disruption (I think).

The design of the game system is classic Cronenberg – organic materials made from body parts of other animals. Repairs to the game pod are performed like surgery by doctors. The connection between mind and body and the sensory experience of the game is a thought-provoking and somewhat plausible scenario. These are just the peripherals to the story though; the actual narrative plot of the film feels terribly recycled and uneventful.

Allegra and Ted’s journey takes them through a “Grand Theft Auto”-like world of smarmy villains, and double-agents. Together they must navigate their way through the game and back into reality. Sufficient jeopardy and stakes for Ted and Allegra are never there because we know they’re in the game, and despite all the manufactured rules, I know they can always get out of the gaming world.

Essentially it’s a pale comparison of “Total Recall”, “The Matrix” and “Dark City”. Because the concept is old news, we can clearly see how the film will end, and predict the twists. The climax which involves a badly staged and acted confrontation with Callum Keith Rennie, Jude Law and Ian Holm, feels as if the filmmakers were rushing to shoot the scene and get all the information wrapped up that one night. And, of course, the film makes a left turn in the final moments which is supposed to surprise us, but instead becomes predictable in its unpredictability.

And despite one erotic scene, we don’t even get to see Jennifer Jason Leigh get it on with Jude Law. Considering Cronenberg’s track record, that was the only unexpected twist – no kinky sex.

Buy it here: eXistenZ

Beware: SPOILERS in this clips:

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