Worth A Look: 42.11%
Pretty Bad: 5.26%
Total Crap: 3.95%
13 reviews, 74 user ratings
by Greg Muskewitz
Just start with the title: "eXistenZ." The spelling, the
capitalization and the pronunciation are all original -- different from anything else out there. It's pronounced like the base of existential, not existence. It deals with the theme of escapism like an "alter-nate world" or verse.But the "alternate world" is not like that of "Dune," where it's a completely different universe from our own, but more like that of "The Game" or "The Matrix," where the person is either placed in another reality or one that is created in the form of escape.
"A unique eXperienCe!"
"eXistenZ" takes place in the near future. No certain time is specified. Personal lives have taken a backseat, and the world isn't used as it once was.
For escape, people play virtual games which use their own nervous system as a power source. Just like ear-piercings, everyone has a "bioport" -- a jack in the base on one's spinal cord. The game's controller, a MetaFlesh Game Pod, looks like a human organ wrapped in flesh, and through the game pod, an UmbyCord (like an extension cord) plugs into the player's back.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Allegra Geller, the world's most worshiped game creator. But she's also the subject of an attempted assassination by a group which calls itself "Realists."
"Death to 'eXistenZ!' Death to the demoness Allegra Geller!" screams an undercover Realist.
During a volunteer testing of her new game, "eXistenZ," Allegra is saved by public relations worker Ted Pikul (Jude Law), who is subbing as a security guard for the game's production distributor and producer, Antenna Research. The two are forced to flee.
Once they've found a place to settle down, Allegra begins to persuade Ted into playing the game. However, she'd rather experiment with her game than use it as an escape like most of her followers. The problem is that Ted doesn't have a bioport. The two must therefore go out in the middle of the night to find someplace that offers illegal bioport operations.
Though very nervous, Ted goes along with the plan. Once inside the game, he -- as well Allegra -- become unable to differentiate between reality and the game. Says Ted, "I'm feeling a little disconnected from my real life. I mean, I don't know where my body is, or where reality is, what I've actually done or not done."
"That's a great sign," says Allegra, "the game is a lot more fun when it starts to feel realer than real."
Once you've seen the movie, you will be able to disregard everything I've said. But to do that, you must see it for yourself.
Canadian director David Cronenberg conceived the original idea for the film from an interview with author Salman Rushdie. Cronenberg, well known for his science fiction films ("The Fly" remake, "Videodrome," "Scanners"), returns boldly after his misfired (though intriguing) NC-17 rated "Crash." This game could easily become addictive -- just watching the film kept me wanting more.
Cronenberg discards most real technology; there are no phones, no televisions, no computers. Yet his organic creations are idyllic and parsimonious. The details and the mutations, the desires and the creativity make this by far the best movie of 1999 -- not just in boldness but something on more of an allegoric (Allegra?) level. (Cronenberg even creates a glossary of everything in the film.)
The cast of "eXistenZ" is superb. Leigh ("Dolores Claiborne," "Washington Square") and Law ("Gattaca," "Wilde") are the excellent main show and work wonderfully. But the supporters also help form the film as a whole: Ian Holm ("The Sweet Hereafter"), Sarah Polley ("Go," "The Sweet Hereafter"), Willem Dafoe ("The English Patient") and Don McKeller ("The Adjuster"), among a host of others.
The beautiful look of the film was created by production designer Carol Spier, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, with visual effects by Jim Issac and the eerie, haunting score by Howard Shore.
I'm trying to give the film a little extra push, not just because it's one of my favorites, but because a small film like this can easily get lost in the jumble of much bigger pictures.
See it. It's unique and you'll never live through a similar eXperienCe!Final Verdict: A
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1322&reviewer=172
originally posted: 11/18/99 03:59:48