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Body Console Wars - 'eXistenZ' Movie Review

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interests are science fiction and zombie movies. I also enjoy pessimistic and survival films a lot.

Biotechnological Virtual Reality Games

In the near future, video games, in their effort to obtain a more immersive experience, have modified their hardware towards the biotechnological virtual reality to become "game pods". The consoles are no longer merely electronic, but small bioorganisms with "Umbycords" that connects directly to the player's spines through surgically implanted connectors known as "bio-ports". Invasive? Sure Awesome? You betcha.

This exponential technological leap means that video games are more vivid than ever, to the point that there are now radical groups, such as the so-called "realists", who fight against the two biggest video game companies (Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics) to avoid what they consider a mutation and deformation of reality.

eXistenZ is the name of the most recent video game by the acclaimed designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh). During a focus group session with some testers, a realist attempts to assassinate Allegra using an "organic pistol" (because, evidently, in a Cronenbergian world, pistols are made of bones and animal cartilages to avoid detection). Ted Pikul (Jude Law), a security guard, manages to escort Geller and safeguard her life.

David Cronenberg, Technology And Identity

The only copy of eXistenZ, a video game that represents a millionaire investment and a cultural landmark, seemed to have been damaged in the attack, which is why Allegra and Ted must look for clandestine alternatives to repair and test that the game works.

From then on, eXistenZ takes the path of the body horror-corporate thriller where a (wo)manhunt, industrial espionage and above all, a permanent doubt between what is real and what belongs to the fiction of the video game, takes place. Are we witnessing a movie about a video game called eXistenZ or the video game itself?

David Cronenberg has always had a fascination with the technological formats through which society manage to recreate. All, of course, with a body horror twist: In 1983's Videodrome, Cronenberg was already showing us James Woods inserting VHS tapes into his abdomen.

Approaching the gamer culture cinematographically is a risk. It's very easy to detect an outsider, a poser or someone who only wants to exploit a culture that he doesn't know very well, in order to be "relevant".

But Cronenberg is not interested at all in having that kind of "cred". He doesn't care if people massively accept him or not, and that's precisely what makes his story in eXistenZ work. Video games are just the format chosen for the Canadian director to frame his tale about how relative our reality become as our technology advances.

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The Blurring Line Between Reality And Game Fiction

Having said that, Cronenberg perfectly nailed his extrapolated (and exaggerated) vision of video games. Time proved him right.

Right now, the technology to achieve the escapism of video games is more focused on erasing the line between reality and the fiction than in creating cartoonish, obvious fantasy worlds. Yes, Nintendo and its absurdly cool colorful worlds are still popular, but the whole industry has been moving in the same direction for years, one in which the graphics (have you seen the facial animation of games like LA Noire or Until Dawn or the landscapes of Assassin's Creed: Origins or Horizon: Zero Dawn?) and peripherals (Kinect, PlayStation VR) are adamant in their quest to emulate reality in the best possible way.

And that, precisely, is what eXistenZ is about.

eXistenZ is a very creative thriller and sci-fi horror that doesn't judge the gamer culture. And--at least until Ready Player One allows it--will continue being the best movie ever made about the escapist impact of video games.

Movie Details

Title: eXistenZ

Release Year: 1999

Director(s): David Cronenberg

Actors: Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ian Holm, a.o.

5 stars for ExistenZ

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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