eXistenZ

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Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 5 months ago)

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Movie Night









Spring 2010

Philosophy 100










Danielson

eXistenZ


Here are several questions to keep in mind while watching the film. These can be used for discussion the night
of the film, or to answer for those who watch on their own. If you are writing answers because you did not
attend the film, or because you are wr
iting for more extra credit, please answer one or more of the questions
with a two
-
page response. You have until the date of the
next film

to submit your responses.



1.


The movie raises metaphysical
questions about
the nature of reality. How do you

know wh
at is really
re
al? What

crite
ria
do
you use to determine

ultimate reality? How certain are you that you actually live in
the real world?

(The film is one level;

then there is the game within the film, and so on.

Intriguingly
“t
ransCendeZ” is the name of
the “real” game

in the film
.
) We will

see
Plato that he also questioned
reality. Compare Plato’s cave with the levels of reality presented in the film.


2.



You have to play the game to find out why you’re playing the game.
” How does this q
uote from the film

relate to living

your life?


3.

Ted and Allegra kill the game maker at the end.

Is this an existential portrayal of man
metaphorically
k
illing God?
(The name of the game / film sounds like the term “existentialism.” In the film, an almost

religious

reverence

is shown towards the game makers.)
Without a God, we are left to ourselves to create
meaning. ‘If God is dead, then all is possi
ble,

and we are condemned to be free’ as Jean
-
Paul Sartre wrote

(paraphrased
.
)

We no longer have a way to exc
use behavior and b
lame it on

an
other. We are thus
responsible; we must own our actions for their own sake. Is this a reasonable position to take, or do we
mostly act in

what Sartre terms


bad faith


and shove off our responsibility onto social roles, God, parents
etc? What
is the more authentic position to hold? Why?


4.

At one point Ted

says
,

confused by coming out of the game
,


Where are our bodies? It’s like we are
meditating.
” This sentiment addresses the question of ho
w mind and body relate. What do you think the
mind is?
Where do you think

the mind located? Can a mind exist without a body or are we ultimately
dependent on our physicality for our mental states? How do you know?


5.

Could there be free will in

the game

eXistenZ

?

(Think back to Morpheous’s question to Neo in
T
he
Matrix.
)

If we are part of a game which has a set of constraints regarding how the characters act, could a
player change the rules? In what ways are you like a player in a game which has a set of rules which
constrain your life?
(What are those rules?)

I
f we too are in a ‘game’, is free will possible?


6.

Twice Allegr
a asks Ted if she can trust him before he joins her in the game.
Why is she asking him this
question?
What is the significa
nce of trust in the game
?

What point or perspective is the
writer / dir
ector
,
David Cronenberg, making with these exchanges?


7.

The

pleasure of bodies
is celebrated in the film
.

Many of the scenes have an obvious allusion to sex: from
the installing of the port into Ted, to the post orgasmic lounging after emerging from the game. What do
you think Cronenberg is suggesting here?

Some commentators have noted that plugging into the g
ame
pod looks a lot like sexual intercourse


specifically anal sex. Do you think that Cronenberg is purposefully
making plugging in, on the back near the base of the spine
,

sexual? What role does it play in the film?
(How does this contrast with so many r
eligious perspectives which entail a renunciation of the body?)


8.

Life isn’t nearly as interesting to Allegra as the game.
Why does Allegra seem prefer

the game o
ve
r life?


Does this say anything about modern people?
What
are
your

reasons

for believing this?

If you had access
to such a virtual reality game, would you be tempted to
prefer to
stay in the game? Why or why not?


9.

The film is unusual for a sci
-
fi in the sense that it does not follow the usual format of high tech gadgets
and a l
ot of special effects. The film takes place more in the woods and in natural settings than
in
gleaming
,

new
,

shiny metal structures
. How does the setting work for or against the power of the film?

Cronenberg is quoted as saying “
I have no city, and there a
re no computers, no television screens, no
running shoes, no mirrors, clocks, watches, jewelry. I'm trying to dislocate the audience so they don't
know where they are, and they have to give themselves up to the movie.
” How does this
work to help you
the au
dience

lose your moorings and enter the

world of the

film/
game?


10.

Comment on h
ow the film relates
to religion / spirituality.
Allegra seems to be almost a guru to the people
at the beginning of the film. She is sought by the believers and feared by the reli
gious fanatics who seek to
harm her.
How does that dual role illuminate how modern people are seeking some transcendent
experience?

The opening of the film obviously takes
place in an old church building, and
the game
start
s

by taking 12 players, like the 12 apostles.

Is Cronenberg saying that th
ese new games, technology, are a

new religion
?
(
According to the Reader’s Digest Encyclopaedia, the name Allegra means, “spirited” and
t
he name Ted, short for Theodore, means “Gift of

God.”
)

Has technology
to some extent
replaced the

usual

role of spirituality

in people’s lives
?

Comment.


11.

H
ow is h
aving
a female
protagonist important to the film?

She is the leader and
almost a
guru, y
et she
does not fulfill the usual lead. She is not a
masculinized warrior who happens to be female,
like Sigourney
Weaver’s character “
Ripley


in the Alien saga, nor

is she

a he
lpless woman who needs the help
of a man
to be successful. In fact

she wins the game

by killing the man
. Is she a good role model

for women
?

(When
we read Germaine Greer later, think of her perspective on Womanpower.)


12.

At the end of the film are we being challenged to kill unreality and embrace truth?
Are we to wake up?

(And if we are to wake up, what are we waking from

and what are

waking up to
?)

Why do you think so?


13.

The devices
needed
to

play the game, the pods, are alive
. What role does this play in the unusual
relationship the players have with the game?
Is it a metaphor for our bodies

a
nd how we

need

bodies

to
connect with rea
lity?

(For example w
hen the pods become infected, they fail.
)

Is this a
comment

o
n the
importance of

the environment?


14.

What about t
he “Realists” in the film? T
hey

seem to be

the ones who will not give in to the simu
lation
presented

of the game.

In some
important way is

simulation all there

really

is

and the Realists’ concerns
mistaken
?

If a simulation is indistinguishable from
“Reality”
, is it as good as real? i.e. if it appears to you
that the people in your life act as if they love you, is that good en
ough, or do you need to KNOW that they
really and truly love you? What is the difference anyways?