Screening on Film
Directed by David Cronenberg.
With Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm.
Canada/UK/France, 1999, 35mm, color, 97 min.
Print source: Park Circus

It’s a great cinephile in-joke, the name of the anti-virtual reality vigilantes in David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ: they’re “Realists,” and they’ve placed a fatwa on the designer of a VR game that must be inserted into the “bio-ports” on its players’ spines. Cronenberg’s films are, of course, exuberant acts against realism—while functioning, simultaneously, as bio-philosophical explorations that might as well have been goaded on by Spinoza’s observation that “no one has yet determined all the things the body can do.” eXistenZ stands out from its late-90s digital anxiety peers—it was released a few weeks after The Matrix—because its blurred lines between the real and the virtual are so strikingly embodied­­.Cronenberg is less interested in a world of flesh-becoming-digital than digital-becoming-flesh, rendering the nonbiological biological and functionally indistinguishable. One almost goes so far as to suggest that through his gooey, haptic imagination, Cronenberg presaged the “Internet of things” far before the term even existed.

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The Early Internet in the Paranoid Imagination