About The Background
For the first time since Videodrome, Cronenberg has written a completely original screenplay, eXistenZ, deriving his inspiration from the fugitive writer, Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses)
For the first time since Videodrome, Cronenberg
has written a completely original screenplay, eXistenZ, deriving
his inspiration from the fugitive writer, Salman Rushdie (The
Satanic Verses). After interviewing the author for a magazine
article in the summer of 1995, Cronenberg was struck with the
idea of an artist who suddenly finds himself on a hit list for
religious or philosophical reasons and is forced to flee into
hiding. "That's why I use the word fatwa in the screenplay,"
says the director.
"Because of my natural inclinations, I decided to make that
person a game designer rather than a writer, thinking that game
design could possibly ascend to the level of art." Cronenberg
and Rushdie actually ended up discussing whether or not a game
could ever become an art form, although, at the time, Cronenberg
did not divulge that he was thinking of making Rushdie's situation
the centerpiece of a movie.
Participating in the game was an afterthought. When he began writing
the screenplay, Cronenberg never intended to take the film inside
the game. "I thought it would be a movie about a game designer
on the run from the fanatics. Then as I started to write it, I
was desperate to get into the game myself and I thought... .well,
if I'm desperate to get into the game, I guess the audience is
going to be desperate. Although it could be kind of an artful
surrealistic thing not to go into the game, I couldn't deny everybody
that pleasure and I wanted to know what I would come up with."
What evolved was a stunning concept in the most brilliant Cronenbergian
tradition. "It seemed to me that what people are really doing
in computer and video games is trying to get closer and closer
to fusing themselves with the game," explains Cronenberg.
"The idea that a game would plug right into your nervous
system made perfect sense to me, because putting on glasses and
gloves is a crude attempt to fuse your nervous system with the
game. So I went that little bit further - if I want to be one
with the game, the game will also want to be in me."
The vehicle for the game evolved into a creature in the shape
of something that one would use to manipulate the game, the way
one uses controllers. "It's really an attempt to fuse the
fantasy and make it real, physical and organic," says Cronenberg.
"It's the game made flesh."
Cronenberg created an entirely new vocabulary to describe the
game. eXistenZ is programmed into a MetaFlesh Game-Pod attached
by an umbycord plugged into a bioport located at the base of the
players spine. The player's individual energy actually supplies
the power. The game changes every time it's played, adapting to
the individual who is playing it. One has to play the game to
find out why they're playing the game. More than one person can
plug into the same game. Thus conjoined, they embark on a series
of bizarre and surrealistic adventures together, as do Jennifer
Jason Leigh and Jude Law's characters in the film.
The game became the perfect venue to embrace two of Cronenberg's
favorite themes. First, the extent to which we create our own
levels of reality. And then, the idea that what you create can
be dangerous to you. "Reality has a life of its own and it
can come back to haunt you. These are the two poles that are the
basis of eXistenZ. So, thematically, it connects to Crash,
Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and in fact, M. Butt
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