director David Cronenberg
“I have this phobia about getting my body penetrated…surgically.”
I hadn’t revisited David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ since it was originally released. To be honest, at the time, it seemed quite old fashioned in particular in comparison with The Matrix which had hit screens not long before. The two films both dealt with virtual universes and levels of reality and The Matrix made eXistenZ seem almost quaint by comparison.
Cronenberg’s concept of a gaming device, a fleshy silicon organism, is well within the spectrum of his body horrors. This one with a give and take of inserting an umbilicus into oneself and merging physically as well as psychically.
But the virtual world of eXistenZ is much more typically cinematic, relying on imitating limitations of game systems. Is there a single computer generated image in the film? Today, I say that to its merit. Digital images don’t age well. Some of The Matrix‘s best techniques were appropriated for television commercials within a year and its innovations now seem more commonplace.
Interestingly, eXistenZ turned out to be Cronenberg’s last horror/science fiction genre effort. Arguably, his more literary or art film work could be traced back to Dead Ringers (1988), but after eXistenZ , the film styles and aspects most associated with his name would be a product of the past.
eXistenZ today holds up all the better for being what it was when it was. Jennifer Jason Leigh is very sexy here, largely emanating from her demeanor and tone.
I have to wonder if Cronenberg somewhere pines to make another genre sci-fi horror if he had the chance.