David Cronenberg's eXistenZ is not your average science fiction film. In fact when watching the movie, you would realise it's far from it. eXistenZ provides a dramatic, futuristic outlook to virtual-gaming with the use of organic technology. The film begins with superstar game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) making a rare appearance in front of a small audience providing an advanced showing of her newest creation in gaming, eXistenZ from Antenna Research.
The advanced screening offers normal, everyday computer game players the chance to be one of the first ever to try the new game. Participants of the first game, sit on the stage using a bio-pod, an undulating fleshy mass that replaces the mouse or joystick used today. This is connected to an umbilical cord which is then plugged into a bio-port located at the base of the spine, allowing it to have full access to the central nervous system. As information starts downloading into the players, an assassin stands up and wounds Geller and another Antenna Research employee with a peculiar gun made of bone and gristle that fires human teeth instead of bullets. eXistenZ was released on April 23, 1999, two weeks after The Matrix. The film had a budget of over $25 million which is considered a small budget.
Cronenberg's cinematography approach is unique from other directors. He is a talented and, in my opinion, under rated Canadian director. Directing films such as Video drome, The Fly, Dead Ringers and Crash, we see Cronenberg's outrageous style. Through his films he gives us an insight into his world of the terrifying and the truly bizarre. He shocks his audiences with edgy and unexpected scenes that differ from your normal fright in a movie. Although many of Cronenberg's films have a somewhat vulgar, dated feel to them, they all incorporate similar characteristics which include scenes of violence and sexual metaphors.
These characteristics are what Cronenberg is famous for. Cronenberg has an unusual view on technology in the future and believes that technology and the human organism will unite. "I see technology as being an extension of the human body" he says. "It's inevitable that it should come out to roost." (SPLICED wire) In this essay, I will argue that Cronenberg's use of technology in eXistenZ does challenge society's beliefs and expectations of what the future holds. eXistenZ differs from your average mainstream science fiction movie. While films like the Matrix are adrenaline- packed action movies boasting stunning fight scenes and unreal effects, eXistenZ has little in the way of fancy special effects.
The movie relies on oozy, fleshy effects that are often more disturbing than entrancing, unlike films such as The Filth Element and The 6 th Day which are full of computerized technology. With majority of people perceiving the future as more computerized then ever before, this is indeed the dominant discourse of what the future holds. As unique as eXistenZ seems, it still does show some similarities with traditional science fiction films. Although technology and effects are of a different form and scale in eXistenZ, both still play significant roles in the movie as with other mainstream science fiction films. eXistenZ also displays your typical "good versus evil" stereotype of a science fiction throughout the film with your good (Allegra) trying to be assassinated by the evil.
The genre science fiction relies greatly on hi-tech effects to satisfy its viewers. For example, in a movie like Star Wars, the audience expects the effects to be of a high class as with other sci-fi films. The effects in eXistenZ are on a far different level to traditional sci-fi movies. In fact, you could say that the effects used in this film are backward to what we expect in the future. The movie consists of organic technologies instead of computer technology.
Instead of mind-blowing visual effects, eXistenZ uses shocking and neurotic themes such as the Chinese restaurant's "Special" which emphasises the sounds of squelches and oozy noises. The concept of virtual reality is widely used in the science fiction genre. Virtual reality in sci-fi movies is usually displayed as being pleasurable, easy and a form of escapism from reality. In eXistenZ, Virtual reality is far more realistic then other sci-fi movies. The film provides the confusing task of defining what is virtual reality and what isn't. We all assume that the start of eXistenZ is reality, but towards the end of the film, we find this is not the case.
This, I believe is a harsh, daunting outlook to the future, communicating to viewers that you can never tell if life is real or unreal. Cronenberg has used a setting in what many would say is the opposite to your traditional sci-fi film. Instead of an overpopulated, hectic environment of a city that never seems to stop (like The Matrix), eXistenZ consists of motionless, empty settings with little sign of inhabitants. Throughout any scene in the movie, there are never any signs of clocks or any other mechanism that might reveal time. Throughout the movie, modern technology is absent and the vehicles used are old and out of date. In The Matrix modern technology is more frequent with the latest cars, guns and fancy gadgets.
Cronenberg has created a mis-en-scene which is quite unusual. The movie is filmed so the point of view is of a male (Ted Picul), however the dominant character in the movie is a female (Allegra). Allegra is a lot more confident and lives life on the edge, whereas Ted is a nervous, tentative character. Although Allegra is portrayed as a 'goddess' throughout the movie, she is not classified as a hero. In fact, unlike The Matrix, there is no heroic theme to the movie at all. In both The Matrix and eXistenZ, the lighting is comparable in that the dull scenes are dark and the climatic scenes are lighter.
During eXistenZ, there is a dark scene where Allegra and Ted are sitting in the car and a transparent blue hue covers the frame alike The Matrix where Neon lies motionless on his bed. Throughout eXistenZ, you notice that when you are apparently in the game, the scenes are a lot lighter, whereas when you are not the scenes are dark. Editing used in eXistenZ is of the exact opposite to what you would see in an action-packed sci-fi film like The Matrix. The editing is lingeringly slow paced and transitions are sluggish unlike your average sci-fi with shots that are sharp and fast and transitions that are cleanly cut. In eXistenZ there are little close-up frames and more middle shots and long shots. Close ups are usually of disturbing and sexual metaphors (e.
g. mutilation of amphibian and lubrication of spinal orifice). While most of the film consists of long shots, they are used to show the unimportance of a frame. For example when characters are talking together (especially within a group) long or middle shots are quite frequently used. Throughout the movie, frames are very motionless and pan slowly at all times.
This is again the complete opposite of an average sci-fi film like The Matrix. eXistenZ is not your regular sci-fi movie loaded with explosive effects and out of the world technology. This movie is radically different from your normal sci-fi film like The Matrix. Cronenberg has showed an amazingly different view on the future through eXistenZ. Although his outlook is bizarre and strange, I believe that Cronenberg has challenged society's thoughts of what the future holds through his use of organic technology instead of computer technology web > web > web > web.