A review - by Shlomoh Sherman

Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by David Cronenberg,  Andras Hamori,  Robert Lantos
Written by David Cronenberg
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie, Sarah Polley, Christopher Eccleston, Willem Dafoe
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
Editing by Ronald Sanders
Studio: Canadian Television Fund, Harold Greenberg Fund, The Movie Network, Natural Nylon, Serendipity Films, Telefilm Canada, Alliance Atlantis, Union Générale Cinématographique
Distributed by Alliance Atlantis (Canada) (UK) Dimension Films (USA)
Release date: April 23, 1999
Running time: 97 min.
Country: Canada, United Kingdom
Plot Keywords: Game - Virtual Reality - Assassin - Game Designer - Gun  
Taglines:  Play it. Live it. Kill for it.
Genres:  Adventure - Sci-Fi - Thriller
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA):  Rated R for strong sci-fi violence and gore, and for language
Filming Locations: Rockwood Conservation Area, Ontario, Canada
Goofs:  Continuity: When Ted and Allegra approach the motel in the car, only the driver is visible.
Quotes  [first lines] Seminar Leader: 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.

Discription of film in Wikipedia: eXistenZ is a 1999 body horror/science fiction film. As in Videodrome, the film gives its psychological statement about how humans react and interact with the technologies that surround them. In this case, the world of video games.
András Hámori and Róbert Lantos, the two producers of the film (who are both of Hungarian origin) said in an interview that they intentionally hid a pun in the title: "isten" is the word for "god" in Hungarian.
Christopher Priest wrote the tie-in novel to accompany the movie eXistenZ, the theme of which has much in common with some of Priest's own novels. He uses the pseudonyms John Luther Novak and Colin Wedgelock, usually for his movie novelizations.
In 1999, a graphic novel credited to David Cronenberg and Sean Scoffield was published.
Reception: The film received generally positive reviews, with a 71% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
 Berlin Film Festival
 Won, Silver Bear: David Cronenberg
 Nominated, Golden Bear: David Cronenberg
 Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival
 won, Silver Scream: David Cronenberg
 Chlotrudis Awards
 Nominated, Best Screenplay: David Cronenberg
 Genie Awards
 Won, Best Achievement in Editing: Ronald Sanders
 Nominated, Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design: Carol Spier, Elinor Rose Galbraith
 Nominated, Best Motion Picture: David Cronenberg, Robert Lantos, Andras Hamori
 Golden Reel Awards
 Nominated, Best Sound Editing in a Foreign Feature: David Evans, Wayne Griffin, Mark Gingras, John Laing, Tom Bjelic, Paul Shikata
 Saturn Awards
 Nominated, Best Science Fiction Film

Plot: 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.
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.

When I first saw this film in 2000, I really liked it and appreciated the concept of an electronic game which biologically interacts with the human gamer, although honestly, I have never really been into computer games or video games. But, well, I think I have always been in love with Jennifer Jason Leigh since first seeing her in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, and certainly after seeing her up close on the stage in a play whose name escapes me at the moment. At 40 something, she looked like she was 25. Of course, also in DELORES CLAYBORNE.

Jude Law did such a good job that I didn't even recognize him till the middle of the film. His terrific American accent completely threw me off. Not until the end of the film does he revert to his real British accent.

When I then showed it to Judy and her friends, they ridiculed me mercilessly because they thought the film stunk. After seeing it again last week via cable TV, I appreciated it even more. And I realized that Judy and her friends are just too stupid to see how good a film eXistenZ really is.

Basically, the plot surrounds the new video-bio game invented by Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the greatest game designer in the world. She is testing the game out with a focus group at a seminar when she is shot superficially in the shoulder in an assassination attempt but is rescued by her body guard and marketing trainee, Ted Pikul (Jude Law).

After escaping from the seminar building, and dressing her shoulder wound, Allegra talks Ted into playing eXistenZ with her.

The game leads both of them into a mutual game world where all is dark and dirty. When I say dirty, I mean literally that all the places where they go have a dark, filthy look, the look of a garage or warehouse that has not be cleaned for years. And the characters they encounter have a dark and dirty aspect as well.

In the game world, the audience cannot tell who is friend or foe to Allegra because some of them attempt to assassinate her again. But Ted always comes to the rescue.

As the game proceeds, reality becomes more and more distorted so that they no longer can tell whether or not they have left the game or are still in it.

After a series of "close calls" by various villains, Allegra and Ted emerge from the game to find themselves back in the seminar room. But this is not exactly the same room from which they escaped. They are told that their whole game adventure is part of a virtual reality game called "tranCendenZ" played by the cast, mirroring the first scene. Suddenly one of the participants asks, "Are we still in the game?". Ted and Allegra stare at him, unsure of the answer.

For those who are curious, after reading this review, I have saved this film on my TIVO and will copy it and send it to anyone who wishes to see it.

Euclid, OH
September 7, 2011

 Jennifer Jason Leigh as Allegra Geller
 Jude Law as Ted Pikul
 Ian Holm as Kiri Vinokur
 Willem Dafoe as Gas
 Don McKellar as Yevgeny Nourish
 Callum Keith Rennie as Hugo Carlaw
 Christopher Eccleston as the Seminar Leader
 Sarah Polley as Merle
 Robert A. Silverman as D'Arcy Nader
 Oscar Hsu as Chinese Waiter
 Kris Lemche as Noel Dichter
 Vik Sahay as Male Assistant

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