Published Feb 01, 2000"I never get excited about technology, oddly enough." David Cronenberg - the directorial vision of behind films both tech-obsessed (Videodrome ,The Fly ) and effects-laden (Naked Lunch ) - seems the least likely person to claim indifference to the latest in geek gear. It's all the more surprising, given the fact that his new film eXistenZ is, at least on the surface, about virtual reality games.
"Technology is not what produces the creation," Cronenberg explains. "The creative excitement has to come first, even if it's a techno subject, even if I'm creating new technology for the film. It's tools. You reach for a tool, there's a new one there and that's miraculous and wonderful, but that's not the exciting thing for me."
In fact, too much attention to the means can have an adverse effect on the end, in Cronenberg's opinion. "Stanley Kubrick had a real flawed weakness for new technology - the endless Steadicam shots inThe Shining , the zoom lenses inBarry Lyndon . That to me is putting the cart before the horse."
Not only is Cronenberg not excited about the latest advances in filmmaking, he's reluctant to rely on them. eXistenZ marks the first time the director has made use of now sci-fi standard CGI (computer generated imagery) technology, and then only in one short sequence. "It's gotten pretty good now, but I still sense a difference between the shots that go into the computer and the shots that come out, and it's difficult to say why. It's like the teleport in The Fly - you come out the other side the same, but there's something slightly different."
The characters in the realm of eXistenZ (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Don McKellar) find themselves more than slightly different from the experience - the game plugs right into your spine. "I'm literally showing in eXistenZ that technology is an extension of the human body." And as an extension of humans, Cronenberg's vision is imperfect, decrepit, flawed and surprisingly real - not the gleaming purity one associates with science fiction. For him, it's an expression of the human condition.
"Have you ever really looked around an airplane? You see rust and cracks and bolts that are stripped and carpet untangling. There's entropy in the world. Two minutes after you get your new car, it's started to degrade and transform. That's how we create. We're dirty. Digital is kind of an anomaly, because it's too perfect - evolution proceeds by inaccuracy, otherwise there's no change. If everything was digital, we'd still be back in the primordial soup."