of the line between tangible reality and fictional game-play. At a preview demonstration of (’XistenZ. Allegra survives an assassination attempt by renegade anti-
eXistenZialists. for whom this new kind of
human consciousness is a distortion of reality.
(‘ronenberg himself is not at all threatened by this notion; in fact. he relishes the idea of a world where these boundaries have become more fluid. ‘For me. reality is a shifting. malleable. flexible. organic thing. But what we seem to want are absolutes. We seem to want something really solid to cling to. we want the earth to be solid beneath our feet. We
don’t want to accept the possibility of
earthquakes at all. 'In fact. now that I think of it. the one major earthquake that I experienced in l..-\ did
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that — it forever ended my feeling that terra firma was firm. And that‘s a shock. What happens is that it gets incorporated into your nervous system. so even when it’s over. you're constantly feeling that the earth is moving. For about a week after. I had to look at chandeliers to make sure that things weren't moving. because my body was telling me that they were.‘
(‘ronenberg argues that. although we seem to need stability. at the same time —- through fiction. art and computer games — we‘re always fighting it. ‘We're never satisfied with the way things are and we want things to change.‘ he says. ‘We’d hate for there to be a set of absolutes that could not change — it would drive us mad. So it‘s a very schizophrenic thing and. in eXisImzZ. l'm pushing that earthquake scenario of things to its limit. by creating a fictional world where everything is constantly shifting and moving.’
The problem with this kind of intellectual conceit is that not everybody. to use (‘ronenberg‘s own phrase. ‘gets it‘. In a review of eXisImZ filed from the Berlin Film Festival. ex—(iuurdiun critic Derek Malcolm took (‘ronenberg to task for creating a 50s 8— movie with up-to-date special effects and wooden characters. He also suggested that the fatwa against Allegra (ieller is imposed by those who 'regard the game as the beginning of the end of morality".
What Malcolm did not seem to realise was that the characters he describes as wooden exist only within the game. and are not meant to resemble the flesh-and-bltmd. psycho- logically complex human beings we encounter of the ‘real‘ world. And what the anti—eXistenZialists fear is not the beginning of the end of morality. but the beginning of the end of reality.
'My contention.' explains (‘ronenberg ‘is that all reality is maintained with creative effort by the human consciousness. That includes the reality that you walked into the movie theatre with. and the one that you will walk out of it with. which after seeing a film like ('XisIenZ will perhaps be a different one. So that experience of watching and participating in the movie will demonstrate to you exactly what I‘ve been thinking. But it requires a major collaboration on the part of the audience. in a way that is maybe not too common. I don‘t think Derek Malcolm understood that. but hopefully others will.‘
Selected release from Fri 30 Apr. See review, page 22.
Virtual reality bites: Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh in eXistenZ