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eXistenZ (1999)

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A game designer on the run from assassins must play her latest virtual reality creation with a marketing trainee to determine if the game has been damaged.


3,778 ( 229)
3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kiri Vinokur
Hugo Carlaw
Seminar Leader
Robert A. Silverman ...
D'Arcy Nader
Noel Dichter
Male Assistant
Kirsten Johnson ...
Female Assistant
James Kirchner ...
Balázs Koós ...
Male Volunteer


Allegra Geller, the leading game designer in the world, is testing her new virtual reality game, eXistenZ with a focus group. As they begin, she is attacked by a fanatic assassin employing a bizarre organic gun. She flees with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul, who is suddenly assigned as her bodyguard. Unfortunately, her pod, an organic gaming device that contains the only copy of the eXistenZ game program, is damaged. To inspect it, she talks Ted into accepting a gameport in his own body so he can play the game with her. The events leading up to this, and the resulting game lead the pair on a strange adventure where reality and their actions are impossible to determine from either their own or the game's perspective. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sci-fi violence and gore, and for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

23 April 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Existenz  »

Box Office


CAD 31,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$810,262 (USA) (23 April 1999)


$2,840,417 (USA) (18 June 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (workprint)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Jennifer Jason Leigh had already finished shooting her role in Eyes Wide Shut (1999) when she took on this role. When her scenes in that film required re-shooting, the schedule required for it interfered with this one. Leigh chose to stay on this film and her role in Eyes Wide Shut was re-cast. See more »


When Pikul is extracting the tooth from Allegra's shoulder, the sleeve of her top is rolled down. In the next shot after it comes out, her shoulder is covered again, but Pikul's hand resting on it hasn't moved. (There are deliberate costume discontinuities in this movie, when the characters shift in and out of eXistenZ, but this isn't one of them.) See more »


[first lines]
Seminar Leader: eXistenZ. Written like this. One word. Small 'E', capital 'X', capital 'Z'. 'eXistenZ'. It's new, it's from Antenna Research, and it's here... right now.
See more »


Referenced in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

A well-crafted film deflated by the Matrix-sodden expectations of an effects-obsessed audience.
14 July 2000 | by (Nottingham, England) – See all my reviews

I feel compelled to speak up for this film against the spoilt ravings of the it-said-it-was-like-the-Matrix-but-I-didn't-see-any-cool-computer-graphics-a nywhere crowd that have dominated these pages.

There seem to be two schools of thought on the use of special effects in movies. The prevalent theory - depressingly common among film goers and film-makers alike - seems to be that a good effect should stand out of a film and make the audience coo like a pigeon. If you subscribe to that theory, fine, watch the Matrix and be happy. If you think that a special effect is a means to an end, a way to portray a fictional vista as a believable realism, then watch eXistenZ and marvel at how a grotesque and visceral world can be made so engrossingly real and intriguing. This film has its fair share of effects, but they are so well grafted into the ethos the film evokes that you just won't notice them on first viewing. And in contrast with the current trend towards computer-generated effects, Cronenburg knows the value of his tactile world; the physical creativity involved in the gristle-gun building scene is a fantastic example.

Okay, so virtual reality has been used many times as a concept - and by films that actually came BEFORE the Matrix too - but the totality with which this film portrays its own organic brand of VR is truly engrossing. Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh are utterly watch-able and the chemistry between them is the perfect vehicle to lead an audience through the admittedly gruesome situations the film describes.

There is an element of old-fashioned escapist fantasy in this film that manages to be strangely endearing despite the gore and I suggest that this is where the film triumphs - a triumph that can be attributed to clever writing, intelligent acting and characterisation, a compelling story, charismatic leads, a vivid and disciplined imagination and the discerning use of effects and visual style.

If the Matrix is an `oooh, aaah' sort of film, then this is more an `oooh, eeugh' movie - but don't allow the glare of the Matrix to dull your senses to the darker appeal of eXistenZ.

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