Life is (not) a game: the abysses of image in the film eXistenZ
Keywords:David Cronenberg, eXistenz, cinema, science fiction, ciberculture
I wrote this essay on the film eXistenZ (Canada/UK/France, 1999) in 2007, at the request of my undergraduate students, who were committed to editing a special issue of Portfolio Magazine on the theme of impact of new technologies in everyday life. The film had been made by David Cronenberg eight years earlier, at the end of a decade in which video games and online entertainment platforms had seen an exponential development. In my case, I was mainly interested in cinema issues – Cronenberg was always one of my favourite contemporary filmmakers - and the way in which its forms allow us to “access” to more-than-human dimensions. In its own way, cinema has always been a screen of “virtual reality”, another space, perhaps Foucaultian, a “possible world”, which - like the inspiring science fiction of Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), writer and scientist, biochemist, whose stories fascinated me in my childhood and adolescence – helped to install my passion for this limbo of (un)knowledge that forms when art and science intersect. It was this persistent fascination with the abyss of Cronenberg's images that led me to the film again, in 2015, now to extract from it, at the limit, a concept of game, to be presented in the context of a workshop. But, thirteen years after the first writing exercise on eXistenZ – which I present you here with minimal changes – I reread these lines and discover in them an extraordinary possible mirror of the present. One says that cinema is not life, and that life is not a game. But, in defence of cinema, which Aristotle did not know, I invoke his Poetics, to say: cinema as poetry - unlike history - never speaks of what life was but what it could be ...
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