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eXistenZ is a 1999 psychological thriller/science fiction film by Canadianmarker director David Cronenberg. It stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law.

András Hámori and Róbert Lantos the two producers of the film (who are both of Hungarianmarker origin) said in an interview that they intentionally hid a pun in the title: "isten" is the word for "God" in Hungarian.


The story takes place in a bizarre near-future where organic virtual reality game consoles known as "game pods" have replaced mechanical ones. The pods are attached to "bio-ports", outlets inserted at the spine of the players, through umbilical cords. In this timeline, two rival game companies, Antenna Research (whom the lead character Allegra Geller works for) and Cortical Systematics compete against each other. In addition, a third party consisting of "realists" fight to subvert both companies in order to prevent the "deforming" of reality.

Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the greatest game designer in the world, is testing her latest virtual reality game, eXistenZ, with a focus group at a seminar.

As they begin, Geller is attacked by an assassin named Noel Dichter (Kris Lemche), armed with a bizarre organic pistol which is undetectable by security. As Dichter is gunned down by the security team, Geller flees with marketing trainee Ted Pikul (Jude Law), who is suddenly assigned as her bodyguard. The pair go on the run and hide out at an inn, where Allegra discovers that her pod, containing the only copy of the eXistenZ game, may have been damaged due to an "UmbyCord" being ripped out as the game was downloaded. To inspect it, she talks a reluctant Pikul into accepting a bio-port in his own body so he can play the game with her. To get a bio-port inserted into his body, Pikul and Allegra head to a gas station run by a man named Gas (Willem Dafoe), who claims to be a fan of Allegra's. Pikul at first objects, due to his paralysis phobia, but he eventually gives in and the port is installed. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a faulty bio-port deliberately inserted by Gas, and the game is damaged. Gas (with a shotgun in hand) reveals that he planned to get close to Allegra so he can kill her for the bounty on her head. Before he can do so, Pikul shoots him from behind with the rivet gun used to install the port. Once again on the run, the pair make their way to an abandoned ski lodge run by Allegra's mentor, Kiri Vinokur (Ian Holm). He and his assistant repair the damaged pod and give Pikul a new bio-port. Once inside the game, Pikul realizes that it becomes impossible to tell whether his or Allegra's actions are their true intentions or the game's. This becomes clear when they meet D'Arcy Nader (Robert A. Silverman), who owns a video game shop. When he questions their intentions, Pikul answers him rudely before realizing that he did not mean to say such things. Allegra informs him that it was the doing of his game character.

Reality becomes more distorted when they insert new micro pods into their ports and gain new identities as workers at a game pod factory. There, they meet Yevgeny Nourish (Don McKellar), who claims to be their contact in the realist underworld. At a Chinese restaurant located near the factory, Pikul "pauses" the game in order to get back to the real world, but finds out that he is unable to tell reality from illusion; the reality is becoming more like a game and he and Allegra are seemingly game characters. Back in the restaurant, Pikul develops the urge to eat the "special", which turns out to be made of cooked mutants. As he eats, Pikul begins constructing a familiar object--the organic pistol that was used to shoot Allegra. He points it at her as a joke, but then feels the urge to kill their waiter (Oscar Hsu) instead. Yevgeny thanks them both for aiding the resistance; however, when the pair return to the video game store, Hugo Carlaw (Callum Keith Rennie) informs them that Yevgeny was actually a double agent for Cortical Systematics. The next day at the factory, the two plan to sabotage the all the game pods in the factory by plugging into a diseased pod. Allegra becomes infected, and Pikul decides to free her by cutting the umbycord. This results in Allegra almost bleeding to death until Yevgeny shows up again with a flame thrower. The pod bursts, releasing deadly spores. Before leaving, Allegra stabs Yevgeny in the back with the knife Pikul used to free her. Allegra and Pikul suddenly find themselves back in the ski lodge, and it seems that they have lost the game. They quickly examine Allegra's game pod and discover that it is also diseased. Pikul is confused, assuming that the disease crossed over from the game into reality. However, Allegra immediately notices Pikul rubbing his back and realizes that Vinoker purposely gave Pikul an infected bioport in order to destroy her game. She inserts a disinfecting device into Pikul's bioport to clear the infection. Unexpectedly, Carlaw reappears as a resistance fighter for the Realists, and escorts Allegra and Pikul outside to witness the death of eXistenZ. Before Carlaw can kill Allegra, he is shot in the back by Vinokur, who is revealed as a double agent for Cortical Systematics. He informs Allegra that he copied her game data while he was fixing her pod earlier. In revenge, she kills Vinokur before Pikul can take the gun out of her hands. Pikul then reveals that he is an assassin himself sent to kill her; he did not have a bio-port because he was and still is one of the Realists. Before he can shoot Allegra, however, she informs him that she knew of his true intentions ever since he pointed the gun at her in the Chinese restaurant, then kills him by detonating the disinfecting device in his bio-port via remote control.

Once more, the narrative takes yet another bizarre turn, as it is revealed that the story in itself, was in fact a virtual reality game called "tranCendenZ" played by the cast in a large hall, mirroring the first scene. The only difference was that the players were using electronic devices attached to their hands and heads rather than game pods. The real game designer, Nourish, feels uneasy because the game started with the assassination of a game designer and had an overall anti-game theme that he suspects originated from the thoughts of one of the other players in the test group. Pikul and Allegra approach him (with Pikul's pet dog close by) and ask him if he should pay for his "crimes" (the most "effective" deforming of reality). As Merle (Sarah Polley), Nourish's assistant calls for security, Pikul and Allegra push back a false mane from the back of the dog, revealing pistols. The two hold Nourish and Merle at gunpoint and shoot them to death, shocking the test group. As they leave, they aim their guns at the group member who played the Chinese waiter, who pleads for his life, and asks "Are we still in the game?"



The film received generally positive reviews, with a 73% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.



Berlin Film Festival

Amsterdammarker Fantastic Film Festival


Genie Awards

Golden Reel Award

Saturn Awards
  • Nominated, Best Science Fiction Film


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.

See also


  1. eXistenZ (1999) - Trivia

External links

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