eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)
Have I already said how original and unique I find David Cronenberg’s films? Well, let’s just say that as of today I consider him as one of the most important Canadian director. Forget James Cameron or Paul Haggis, have you seen his History of Violence and his Eastern Promises? If not, I recommend them it’s not mandatory but almost. I really like how he dismantle the human body and the sexual desires of modern day men and women. His special effects are unique and their touch is immediately recognizable.
eXistenZ is a film about a video game named with the name of the film itself that takes you into a parallel world where your life gets more interesting and where you play characters that emphasize your better and your worst traits of character. The film is set in a near future where video games are the ultimate trip, better than sex, drugs, extreme sports, etc.
On one level it’s easy to make a parallel between the video games and the whole cybernetic world that yes include videogames where you incarnate a character but also the social networks of the 21st century like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. It permits the user to be in a state of security without being involved for real with the world. You create another person with yourself. From the cinematic point of view the levels of storytelling used here recalls a multilayered reality put into your mind. One thing popped into my head when I saw eXistenZ, first it treats of a multilayered story that strongly reminded me of Inception made almost a decade after but with deeper meanings but less money.
On another level, the film has many sexual references with the strange looking pods (Ipod) that people connect with what only looks like an umbilical cord into their spine. The penetration of this cord is without a doubt intended to recall an actual sexual penetration. The controls of the game are made to look like erotic toys and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character has many lines with sexual references. At some point she initiates Jude Law’s character to her game and she wants to play with him. The little shop where they arrive in the game looks like a pale imitation of a sex shop.
Law’s character is “virgin” from the video games and Leigh initiates him to this world. He also looks like a man that struggles between two sexualities and his boyish college looks emphasize this aspect of the film. Leigh is the older more experimented woman that will take him to his manhood and bring him to master the game. The film evolves around this aspect of Law’s character.
The multilayered depths of eXistenZ is unsettling and its qualities just get stronger and stronger with the evolution of the technologies. Apart from the fact that this film was shot with less funds than many Sci-fi movies of the time and its looks is a little dark for mainstream films, it surely stands as a great feature. David Cronenberg just get better and better with the time as for his films.