On this day, 23 April, in 1999, one of my favorite films was released: eXistenZ.
This was right after The Matrix was released and a lot of people think that if that hadn’t been the case, eXistenZ would have been a hit. The two films have a number of similarities. But people who think this are wrong. eXistenZ was never going to appeal to a wide audience.
eXistenZ is way too Cronenberg. Who thinks, “I’ve got this idea for a film about game realities so obviously we’re going hard into amphibian organs”? Well, David Cronenberg, of course. Even by his standards, this film is pretty weird.
It’s also way too clever for a multiplex audience. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that it’s hard to really appreciate eXistenZ the first time through. There are so many signs that things are wrong at the beginning of the film. Yet I just went with them, assuming that was the reality of the film. On second viewing, funny things stand out like Gas working at COUNTRY GAS STATION.
Other Cronenberg Classics
There are only a few other Cronenberg films that see him in top form: Videodrome, The Fly, Naked Lunch, and Crash. Who knows how I would rank these films. Any filmmaker should count their blessing that they made one film as good as any one of these in a whole career.
The thing about eXistenZ is that it’s the Cronenberg film I’ve watched the most. So in that way, it could be considered his best (as far as I’m concerned). But that’s not fair given the profound effect the other films have on me — especially Crash.
So is eXistenZ David Cronenberg’s feel-good people pleasing film? Maybe for Cronenberg fans. Most people I’ve introduced to the film hated it. But if you haven’t seen it, and you are reading this, I suspect you’ll love it.
eXistenZ poster via Wikipedia under Fair Use.