Monday, January 20, 2014

eXistenZ (1999)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (6.8).

This was yet another entry in the late 90's trend of "reality is a lie" mindscrew movies (cf. 1998's Dark City; 1999's The Thirteenth Floor and of course The Matrix).  If you take it only as that, I suppose it's not the best of its kind; I'd say the director's cut of Dark City makes for a better "reality is a lie" sci-fi mindscrew flick.  But Cronenberg steers his film away from simpleminded gawking at Plato's Cave and instead points it toward uncomfortable questions about our consumption of mediaeXistenZ tempts us to root for creative freedom and side with the VR game designers — abetting mindless escapism that detaches us from our humanity — or else to suppress such undesirable creative expression by issuing a fatwa against it (enforced by means of violence if necessary) and side with the "realist" cause.  Whatever our decision on the matter, the film pressures us to face the true consequences and squirm in discomfort.  In a sense, this film is almost the opposite of The Matrix: the Wachowskis gave us a mindscrew that wasn't really much of a mindscrew, then followed it with 60 minutes of beautiful-but-mindless popcorn action; but Cronenberg gave us an experience that demands thoughtful viewing but then rewards you for thinking about it.  And... well, it's also a pretty enjoyable watch on a literal level as well.  Score: 4 stars out of 4.

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