eXistenZApril 23, 1999
A game designer on the run from assassins must play her latest virtual reality creation with a marketing trainee to determine if the game has been damaged.
Release Year: 1999
Rating: 6.8/10 (45,276 voted)
Critic's Score: 68/100
Stars: Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ian Holm
Allegra Geller, the leading game designer in the world, is testing her new virtual reality game, eXistenZ with a focus group. As they begin, she is attacked by a fanatic assassin employing a bizarre organic gun. She flees with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul, who is suddenly assigned as her bodyguard. Unfortunately, her pod, an organic gaming device that contains the only copy of the eXistenZ game program, is damaged. To inspect it, she talks Ted into accepting a gameport in his own body so he can play the game with her. The events leading up to this, and the resulting game lead the pair on a strange adventure where reality and their actions are impossible to determine from either their own or the game's perspective.
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Callum Keith Rennie
Robert A. Silverman
A game to live or to die for.
Release Date: 23 April 1999
Filming Locations: Rockwood Conservation Area, Ontario, Canada
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $810,262
(25 April 1999)
(20 June 1999)
Did You Know?
The character of Allegra may likely be a reference to a minor character of the same name in Samuel R. Delany's novella "The Star Pit." In that novella, Allegra is a child prodigy able to telepathically project any type of reality she wishes to anyone around her.
When Ted and Allegra approach the motel in the car, only the driver is visible.
eXistenZ. Written like this. One word. Small 'E', capital 'X', capital 'Z'. 'eXistenZ'. It's new, it's from Antenna Research, and it's here… right now.
A well-crafted film deflated by the Matrix-sodden expectations of an effects-obsessed audience.
I feel compelled to speak up for this film against the spoilt ravings of the
nywhere crowd that have dominated these pages.
There seem to be two schools of thought on the use of special effects in
movies. The prevalent theory – depressingly common among film goers and
film-makers alike – seems to be that a good effect should stand out of a
film and make the audience coo like a pigeon. If you subscribe to that
theory, fine, watch the Matrix and be happy. If you think that a special
effect is a means to an end, a way to portray a fictional vista as a
believable realism, then watch eXistenZ and marvel at how a grotesque and
visceral world can be made so engrossingly real and intriguing. This film
has its fair share of effects, but they are so well grafted into the ethos
the film evokes that you just won't notice them on first viewing. And in
contrast with the current trend towards computer-generated effects,
Cronenburg knows the value of his tactile world; the physical creativity
involved in the gristle-gun building scene is a fantastic example.
Okay, so virtual reality has been used many times as a concept – and by
films that actually came BEFORE the Matrix too – but the totality with which
this film portrays its own organic brand of VR is truly engrossing. Jude
Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh are utterly watch-able and the chemistry
between them is the perfect vehicle to lead an audience through the
admittedly gruesome situations the film describes.
There is an element of old-fashioned escapist fantasy in this film that
manages to be strangely endearing despite the gore and I suggest that this
is where the film triumphs – a triumph that can be attributed to clever
writing, intelligent acting and characterisation, a compelling story,
charismatic leads, a vivid and disciplined imagination and the discerning
use of effects and visual style.
If the Matrix is an `oooh, aaah' sort of film, then this is more an `oooh,
eeugh' movie – but don't allow the glare of the Matrix to dull your senses
to the darker appeal of eXistenZ.