eXistenZ: Behind The Scenes

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Joining him behind the camera are his long time collaborators, PETER SUSCHITZKY, cinematographer (Immortal Beloved, Mars Attacks, The Man in the Irons Mask, The Empire Strikes Back), Carol Spier, production designer (Mimic, Crash, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers) and Jim Isaac, special effects supervisor (The Fly, Gremlins, Return of the Jedi).

"As usual with Peter and me, the lighting is instinctive rather than rational. We grope towards the look and suddenly, when we realize we've found it, we cling to it and evolve it. The lighting is provocatively sensual, rich and profound," exclaims the director.

Production Designer CAROL SPIER, who has designed 11 Cronenberg pictures, encapsulates the design concept. "Big business has left the city. Everybody lives in the country where game design is like a cottage industry. Small clandestine operations have been set up. Game designers such as Allegra Geller are trying to keep their ideas and new systems a secret. Meetings are held in simple country churches and people go to gas station attendants to get their game parts.

"There are no specific distinct looks in or out of the game, so we were at liberty to do what we wanted. Nothing had to be logical because they were in the game," says Spier who delved into the past, incorporating some elements from previous Cronenberg films into eXistenZ. For the Chinese Restaurant, she and the director recalled restaurants they'd seen when filming M. Butterfly in China. "The Trout farm is reminiscent of Naked Lunch. It's like a nightmare, like one of those crazy dreams where something weird is happening and you don't know why. A logistical nightmare was moving the chalet, built in studio, 60 miles north to a ski hill," relates Spier.

"David likes people to relate to the film, to feel that what is happening in the film could happen to them tomorrow. It's sci-fi in that sense, but it's not a high tech film," she concludes.

In eXistenz, there are no computers, no monitors, no TV, no telephones, no clocks. And in the costume department, no running shoes, no watches, no suits, no jackets and ties, no jewelry.

Cronenberg reveals, "I wanted to create a kind of world that would draw the audience in for the moment, where they abandon their own particular reality. There are subtle ways to do that. I'm not even sure they will notice the absence of those things, but I knew it would have a real weight in creating a strange tone for the film. Rather than the usual sci-fi trickery, which is to add things, little pre-labeled objects and concepts that say science fiction, I was doing it by subtraction rather than by addition," reveals Cronenberg.

"The effect is that something is not right but you don't know what it is. It's subliminally unsettling," says Costume Designer DENISE CRONENBERG, "The look is no look. It was a challenge to be so non-committal and be subtle at the same time so as not to pin-point the period."

eXistenZ shot in studio for two months during April and May, emerging to various outdoor country locations within a 60-mile radius of Toronto throughout June.

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