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A David Cronenberg film that combines Body Horror with Mind Screw. When you allow the Platonic Cave to mess with your emotional and mental state, how do you know who your friends really are? How do you know right from wrong, and whether you believe it...or just your character? What is real?
Described by some as the Canadian version of The Matrix, but involves more philosophy and less leather-clad ass-kicking.
This film provides example of:
- Alien Lunch: A light snack of a genetically engineered frog-like amphibian whose body was designed as spare parts for the organic game-pods and also contained the parts for a Scaramanga Special bone gun.
- All Just a Dream, and possibly a Dream Within a Dream.
- Bilingual Bonus: "Isten" (the word in between the "X" and the "Z") is Hungarian for "God." Deus Ex Machina (of a sort), anyone?
- This was deliberate by someone in the production (I forget who, possibly the writer) who is Hungarian.
- transCendenZ: "trans" is 'beyond' in Latin and "enden" is 'the end' in some Germanic languages.
- Bio Punk
- Bland-Name Product: XE-60 is just a few letters and digits from WD-40.
- Coitus Ensues: Lampshaded. The two main characters suddenly start making out for no apparent reason. Allegra tells Pikul to just go with it, as it's just a scene written into the program in order to increase the emotional intensity between them.
- At the end it's revealed that the two were actually in a relationship to begin with, although that might have been a cover story. And they might still be in the game.
- Creepy Gas Station Attendant
- Dialogue Tree: Made to look as awkward as they actually would in real life. Until you give a correct response, game characters just repeat the same fidgety actions. Rather than selecting the response text from a menu, player characters just "know" what the right options are.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: the organic game pods are strangely phallic, and plug into a port on a person's lower back. After said ports are lubricated with saliva.
- Also, the whole theme of people fanatically trying to murder an artist is deliberately evocative of the life of Salman Rushdie, who is friends with Cronenberg. It's quite likely that the character of Allegra Geller ( and later, Yevgeny Nourish) is a stand-in for Rushdie. The word "fatwa" is even used explicitly.
- Driving a Desk: used deliberately.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Willem Dafoe plays a gas station attendant, simply called "Gas"...
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: ...who works at Country Gas Station. Workers at Trout Farm eat lunch at Chinese Restaurant.
- Genre Savvy: Allegra uses this to try to dissuade Gas from killing them.
- Death by Genre Savviness: "I like your script. I want to be in it."
- Hollywood Darkness: also used deliberately.
- Mind Screw
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Allegra comments that Robert Silverman's Irish accent is not very convincing, and that he's a generally bland character. This is in contrast to the excitable nutjobs he usually plays in Cronenberg's films.
- More obviously, you can hear Jude Law's accent crack when he shouts. It's very obvious.
- One-Scene Wonder - Christopher Eccleston is a 100% postmodern example of this trope
- Organic Technology: eXistenZ runs off of little flesh computers that plug into ports in your spine. Interestingly, transCendenZ, unlike eXistenZ, runs off of conventional electronics. The gristle gun, built out of bones and teeth, also works like this.
- The Game Never Stopped: played with several times, with characters not knowing if they are still in the game. Including in the ending.
- Platonic Cave: Subverted: transCendenZ is just as fake as eXistenZ.
- Post Cyber Punk
- The Mole: Oh, just about everybody.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- Scaramanga Special: The pistol made of bones from the Chinese Restaurant meal, which happened to literally be the Special of the Day.
- Serious Business: Darkly parodied. People are willing to kill each other over a video game. But, as Salman Rushdie could tell you, that's not so far off from the truth...
- They weren't willing to kill over the video games itself, they were willing to kill each other over the effects of such reality-bending technology.
- Shout-Out: To The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch: the takeout Allegra and Ted eat early in the film is called "Perky Pat's".
- Spiritual Sequel: To Videodrome. The opening scene of this movie bears a great resemblance to the end of the other one.
- Unusual User Interface: organic game pods that plug into bio-ports.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz