Perception and Reality in Existenz

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Perception and Reality in eXistenZ
Kishan Maynard-Clarke
For me, eXistenZ is a film that is fairly confusing at best. If I’m not mistaken the film was released before The Matrix and had the same concept for the world the characters resided. A computer generated world inside the real world.

In eXistenZ the protagonists start off in a room, they are about to beta test a revolutionary computer game called “eXistenZ”, the scene is set in such a way that we are led to believe that video games have finally reached the ultimate goal of becoming fully immersive and utterly real, not so much virtual reality but complete reality.

Each actor is given a role that, in the game, they may or may not complete without knowing. This is where things already start to cross over. We as the audience are transported into a fictional world, viewed through a mechanical/computerized object (the camera) that is itself populated by fictional characters whom are just about to do the exact same thing.

“The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.” 1 berger

We are told to believe that computerised realities identical to our own are now possible, and that these people will be “porting” into one. Nobody today, at least that I know, believes that our reality is computerised, simply because in our reality…a computer generated reality that is indistinguishable from our own has not been created. But if we all believed that, would we see this world differently as in eXistenZ?

“An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced. It is an appearance, or set of appearances, which has been detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance and preserved – for a few moments or a few centuries.” 2 berger

Once we are “ported” into the computerized reality of their reality, we realise that what we are viewing is not what we are seeing for ourselves, possibly not even in the same time or space. The camera is providing us with a series of still images that were captured by a “mechanical” eye (this alone provides us with a view of the world which is unlike our own i.e. widescreen, resolution, perspective etc). These images are producing a world that is similar to ours but unreal and from the viewpoint like that of a ghost or an angel (called “free cam” or “death cam” in the video game world”. The ability to view events from anywhere in the world whenever you want.). This world then takes us into another world inside that one which is viewed the same way, except this world is supposed to be the false reality. I sometimes think this can be part of the explanation for the oddities we see….like placing the lens of a camera next to the viewfinder of another camera and taking a picture. As your eye, a natural camera in itself sees through the first lens, the image is distorted via that lens and then the other lens. What is it you will really be seeing at the end? In the film we are always viewing the events through three mediums, our eyes, through the camera, which views those events through a virtual camera in the game. We can never be totally sure that the images we see represent the corresponding knowledge that we assign to it in our reality. Everything in eXistenZ looks exactly the same as our reality but doesn’t have the same meaning….several tiers over.

But whose eyes are we actually viewing these whole series of events from? A spectator. But who is this spectator? Are there testers ported into the game as mere observers? Are they developers or publishers? Or simply joe public who has no direct connection with the corporate mechanics of eXistenZ? In our reality, when you play a multiplayer game such as this and you die, you become a spectator…a ghost, until the end of the game, where you “respawn” (get another chance). Quite simply, whose interpretation of the events are we watching? Two quotes relating to music and technology but I believe are relevant;

“”Liveness,” in short, whether...
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