Thursday, July 18, 2013


eXistenZ / eXistenZ. CA / GB © 1999 Screenvision XXIV / Alliance Communications / eXistenZ. Company credits on screen: Dreamset / Alliance Atlantis / Serendipity Point Films / Natural Nylon Entertainment. P: Andras Hamori, Robert Lantos, David Cronenberg. D+SC: David Cronenberg. DP: Peter Suschitzky - camera: Panavision - negative: 35 mm - lab: DeLuxe (Toronto), The Lab (Toronto) - colour - 1,85:1. PD: Carol Spier. AD: Tamara Deverell. Set dec: Elinor Rose Galbraith. Cost: Denise Cronenberg. Makeup and hair for Ms. Leigh: Réjean Goderre, Micheline Trépanier. VFX+SFX: Jim Isaacs. Digital VFX: Toybox. Title sequence: Cuppa Coffee. Creature design: Stephan Dupuis. M: Howard Shore. ED: Ronald Sanders. C: Jennifer Jason Leigh (Allegra Geller), Jude Law (Ted Pikul), Ian Holm (Kiri Vinokur), Don McKellar (Yevgeny Nourish), Callum Keith Rennie (Hugo Carlaw), Sarah Polley (Merle), Christopher Eccleston (Seminar Leader), Willem Dafoe (Gas), Robert A. Silverman (D'Arcy Nader), Oscar Hsu (Chinese Waiter), Kris Lemche (Noel Dichter), Vik Sahay (Male Assistant). Helsinki premiere: 24.9.1999 Bio Rex, released by Columbia TriStar Egmont Film Distributors Oy with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Janne Staffans – VET 101409 – K16 – 2670 m / 97 min. KAVA print deposited by Columbia viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (David Cronenberg), 18 July 2013
  David Cronenberg tells that the film was inspired by his interview with Salman Rushdie, in hiding due to the Fatwah on his life.
  The title is the name of the virtual reality game being played in the movie.
  The production countries are according to the end credits Canada and Great Britain.
  There is no The End title.

The science fiction adventure eXistenZ belongs to the core of David Cronenberg's œuvre, to the same cyberpunk context as Scanners and Videodrome.

The "dream within a dream" structure can be annoying, but in this movie the Chinese boxes structure is a witty modern interpretation of the "La vida es sueño" theme that has been essential in Western culture since Calderón and the Renaissance.  

The thriller plot is just a framework for a satire on the virtual reality syndrome.

On the eXistenZ level the narrative is about "the game everybody's already playing". Virtual games are played with organic game pods that can be plugged with UmbyCords directly into the spine via a bio-port.

During the eXistenZ game the characters confront clumsily designed characters, find themselves acting according to the game designer's will, losing their own free will, having to revise lines of dialogue in order to proceed, confronting game characters in reality, starting to feel real life unreal, and beginning to feel like game characters, themselves.

There is a mortal combat going on between the "Death to Realism" and "the Victory of Realism" movements.

After several surprise twist endings there is a further one where it is exposed that the entire eXistenZ narrative is in fact a virtual reality game called tranCendenZ by PilgrImage, and all the actors of the preceding story are tranCendenZ game players who have gathered together in their normal dresses in a playroom. tranCendenZ is an electronic computer game in contrast to eXistenZ which is biological, based on mutant manipulation.

The tranCendenZ revelation is not the end, either. "Are we still in the game?" is the final question.

David Cronenberg's approach to this incredible story is straight. It is a top production from Cronenberg's talented crew.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is one of the most daring and interesting actresses of her generation, and her performance brings substance to the role which needs it. We believe in her as "the Game Pod Goddess" who is surprisingly shy and vulnerable, having spent "five of her most passionate years" in solitude, creating "the only original version of eXistenZ". Thanks to her core of gravity we keep caring for her even after we realize that she has herself been a game character during most of the narrative.

Something similar can be said about Jude Law who behind his pretty boy exterior gives a subtle, complex performance.

The "meta flesh" and "the disease theme" aspects of the narrative are connected with Cronenberg's earliest, his most original obsession - body horror and exotic diseases.

eXistenZ belongs also to Cronenberg's tales of paranoia. The Finnish word for "paranoia", "vainoharha", is in direct translation to English, "delusion of persecution". The horror in this movie is that we can never know if the persecution - the fatwa - is real or illusory.

I like the puns, the wordplays, and the wit of eXistenZ. The underlying questions about who we really are, what is free will, and about God the Creator are not superficial.

eXistenZ is not a movie of psychological realism. It is also a game, a game for the mind, for thinking about existence, transcendence, and "pilgrim-images".

The Finnish dialogue by Timo Porri of the witty, inventive dialogue is excellent.

The print is fine, clean, and complete.
Wikipedia synopsis:

In the near-future, organic virtual reality game consoles known as "game pods" have replaced electronic ones. The pods are attached to "bio-ports", outlets inserted at players' spines, through umbilical cords. Two game companies, Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics, compete against each other. In addition, a group of "realists" fights both companies to prevent the "deforming" of reality.

Antenna Research's Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the greatest game designer in the world, is testing her latest virtual reality game, eXistenZ, with a focus group at a seminar. She is shot in the shoulder by an assassin named Noel Dichter (Kris Lemche) with an organic pistol (the weapon on the poster), which is undetectable by security. As Dichter is gunned down by the security team, security guard (and marketing trainee) Ted Pikul (Jude Law), rushes to Geller and escorts her outside.

Allegra discovers that her pod, which contains the only copy of the eXistenZ game, may have been damaged due to an "UmbyCord" being ripped out as the game was being downloaded. To test it, she must plug into the game in tandem with another player that she can trust, and talks a reluctant Pikul into installing a bio-port in his own body so he can play the game with her. Pikul, one of a dwindling few who has refused to have a bio-port installed to this point, at first objects due to a phobia about "surgical penetration," but eventually gives in. They head to a gas station run by a black marketeer named Gas (Willem Dafoe) to get it installed. Gas deliberately installs a faulty bio-port and the game pod is damaged. Gas (with a shotgun in hand) reveals that he is going to kill Allegra for the bounty on her head, but Pikul shoots him with the rivet gun used to install the port.

The pair make their way to a former ski lodge used by Allegra's mentor, Kiri Vinokur (Ian Holm). He and his assistant repair the damaged pod and give Pikul a new bio-port. Inside the game, Pikul realizes that it is hard to tell whether his or Allegra's actions are their own intentions or the game's. When they meet D'Arcy Nader (Robert A. Silverman), a video game shop owner, Pikul speaks rudely to him but then expresses surprise at his own rudeness. Allegra informs him that it was the doing of his game character.

Reality becomes more distorted when they use new micro pods given to them by Nader and gain newer identities as workers at a game pod factory. There, they meet Yevgeny Nourish (Don McKellar), who claims to be their contact in the Realist underworld. Nourish recommends that Pikul order the special for lunch at a Chinese restaurant near the factory. Once in the restaurant, Pikul "pauses" the game in order to get back to the real world but then finds out that he is unable to distinguish presumed reality from illusion. Back in the restaurant, Pikul develops an urge to eat the unappetizing special which turns out to be an assortment of cooked mutant animals. Pikul constructs a familiar object from the inedible parts—the pistol originally used to shoot Allegra. He points it at her as a joke, but then Pikul identifies their Chinese waiter (Oscar Hsu) as an enemy and gets Pikul to shoot him instead. In keeping with game parameters, the other patrons of the restaurant appear more frozen than shocked and return to their meals when Pikul tells them it was a simple misunderstanding about the bill. When the pair return to the game store Hugo Carlaw (Callum Keith Rennie) informs them that Nourish is actually a double agent for Cortical Systematics. Thus the waiter Pikul murdered was the actual contact. The following day the two plan to sabotage all the game pods in the factory by plugging into a diseased pod. When Allegra becomes infected Pikul frees her by cutting the umbycord. But then Allegra almost bleeds to death before Nourish appears with a flame thrower, directing it at the diseased pod. The pod bursts, releasing deadly spores all over the factory. Before leaving, Allegra stabs Nourish in the back with a knife.

Allegra and Pikul suddenly find themselves back in the ski lodge, and it seems that they have lost the game. They discover that Allegra's game pod is also diseased. Pikul is confused by the disease's crossover from the game into reality. However, Allegra immediately notices Pikul rubbing his back and realizes that Vinokur gave Pikul an infected bioport in order to destroy her game. She inserts a disinfecting device into Pikul's bioport. Unexpectedly, Carlaw reappears as a Realist resistance fighter and escorts Allegra and Pikul outside to witness the death of eXistenZ. Before Carlaw can kill Allegra, he is shot in the back by Vinokur, who is a double agent for Cortical Systematics. He informs Allegra that he copied her game data while he was fixing her pod. In revenge, she kills Vinokur. Pikul then reveals that he himself was sent to kill her; he is a Realist. But she informs him that she knew of his true intentions ever since he pointed the gun at her in the Chinese restaurant. So she kills him by detonating the disinfecting device in his bioport by remote control.

In yet another unexpected twist, the two are then shown sitting on a stage together with the main players from the game. It turns out that the story itself is in fact a virtual reality game called "tranCendenZ" played by the cast. This is enforced by more naturalistic acting coupled with significantly less formulaic dialogue along with cutaways from Allegra and Pikul. Another difference occurs when it is revealed that players are using electronic devices rather than game pods. The real game designer, Nourish, feels uneasy because the game started with the assassination of a game designer and had an overall anti-game theme that he suspects originated from the thoughts of one of the testers. Pikul and Allegra approach him (with Pikul's pet dog close by) and ask him if he should pay for his "crimes" of deforming reality. As Merle (Sarah Polley), Nourish's assistant, calls for security, Pikul and Allegra grab pistols hidden under the dog's false mane and shoot Nourish and Merle to death. As in the restaurant scene, the other players appear more frozen than shocked. As Pikul and Allegra leave, they aim their guns at the person who played the Chinese waiter, who first pleads for his life, then asks if they are still in the game. The last shot is of Pikul and Allegra standing together in wide-eyed silence, apparently unsure of the answer.

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