Sunday, 16 January 2011

Review - eXistenZ

eXistenZ - capital x, capital z.

A virtual world made reality through the use of living Playstations known as biopods connected to their user via an umbilical cord. A reality in which both desire and fear act as the creative force in the imaginary world. Leading those inside it to the darkest realms of their imagination and to question where their real lives end and the game begins.

Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a world famous games designer, a hero to those jaded by the limits of the everyday and a target for extremists who fear the significance of the waking world is being devalued by her creations. Following an attempt on her life at a promotional event for her latest construction of fantasy, her safety is entrusted to a trainee marketing man moonlighting as a security guard in the form of Ted Pikul (Jude Law). Initially reluctant, Geller persuades game virgin Pikul to join her in eXistenZ to see whether her biopod has survived the stress of the assassination attempt. And thus begins a journey through different levels of reality as the pair descend deeper into the game.

Law for all of the tabloid attention that he attracts is often overlooked in terms of his acting ability. His performance as Pikul shows great subtlety as he moves between video game avatar and the anxious reluctant hero - ushering the audience away from the solid groundings of reality until finding themselves as lost in the void as he appears to be. For all the flak he seems to take, there is no doubting his ability in front of the camera.

The film, written and directed by David Cronenberg, is full of his usual relish for blood and throbbing guts. The alternative reality providing the perfect foundation for creative and extravagant use of his favoured splatter. As ever though, he displays vision beyond the gore that makes for a darkly involving and entertaining experience. A puzzle that requires attention for the duration but highly rewarding. For a film that is now over a decade old, the themes seem as relevant now as ever and ahead of the time in terms of concept. Looking at the nature of our reality whilst also questioning human fervour for escapism via virtual worlds - simply illustrated by the umbilical cords used by game users. With the release of Inception last year, it is difficult not to see this film as precursor with the levels of reality similarly broken down into clear stages before slowly blurring into one. Cronenberg brings his concept to life with the craft and execution one would expect from the Canadian director. Worth seeing on the ideas alone, the style with which it is depicted comes as a real bonus.

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