The depiction of virtual realities and the transition between parallel realities in "eXistenZ" and "Matrix"

Seminar Paper, 2006

17 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction

2. Reality and virtual realities
2.1. Hostile groups
2.2. Escape from (virtual) reality
2.3. Free will
2.4. Absoluteness of the transition
2.5. Existence of an absolute reality

3. Levels of reality and narration
3.1. Matrix.
3.2. eXistenZ

4. Transition
4.1. eXistenZ
4.2. Matrix

5. Artificiality
5.1. Lighting
5.2. Artificial objects, actions and surroundings

6. The additional orifice

7. Existence or eXistenZ?

8. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The depiction of virtual realities seems to be very popular in modern film production. eXistenZ and Matrix are only two examples of films belonging to the genre of “cyberpunk”. This genre mainly deals with human beings and their bodies and their relationship to technology and their environment. There is a strong focus on the “anxiety over […] the technological creation of alternative realities and consequent loss of a stable perceptual ground for reflection” (Hotchkiss 19).

Cyberpunk started as a subgenre of science fiction dealing with the “altering of the human body through pharmaceuticals and electronics” (Hotchkiss 19). This topic was quite poplar in the sixties and seventies when parts of the society were very suspicious of totalitarian corporate control. Cyberpunk reached its climax in the mid-eighties again dealing with the interfering of body and mind through “protheses, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration, as well as brain- computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, [and] neurochemistry” (Hotchkiss 19).

As mentioned both eXistenZ and Matrix deal with these virtual realities and their impact on human beings, though in different ways. In both films the characters travel to these virtual realities and back, but they have different motives, there is a different philosophy behind these transitions. As a consequence different filming techniques are used. In this paper I am going to analyze how these transitions between parallel realities are depicted and which effects are created through certain techniques. Furthermore other aspects concerning these transitions between parallel realities, such as the requirements to make such a transition possible, will be taken into consideration.

My argumentation will be supported by certain scenes from the two films that can be found on the CD-ROM that is attached to this paper. In the text the reference to the clips is made like this: < Clip1.mpg >. These scenes and also the quotations of characters are taken from the DVDs of eXistenZ and Matrix that are listed in the bibliography.

2. Reality and virtual realities

Both eXistenZ and Matrix deal with virtual realities, and there are certain parallels and similarities. But if we take a closer look at the two different virtual realities, we will discover certain differences. The following points of analysis are taken from Ritch Calvin’s article “The Real eXistenZ transCendz the Irreal” in which he compares eXistenZ to Philip K. Dick’s novel Three Stigmata (Calvin 278-279, 285, 287).

2.1. Hostile groups

In both films there are hostile groups that fight due to the issue of virtual reality. In eXistenZ the so-called “Realists” try to destroy Allegra Gellar’s video game and to kill her because they regard it as a threat and as harmful to the human mind. To play this video game people need a so-called “bio-port”, an additional orifice that is drilled into the spine through surgery. This is necessary to connect the game pad, that looks and somehow is organic, to the human body through a wire that is similar to an umbilical cord.

In Matrix there is a fight between human beings and the machines. In a war between these two groups the humans darken the sky forever banning sunlight to destroy the machines’ primary source of energy. But the machines can defeat the human beings and then use them as “batteries” using the energy the human body produces. Through a plug in the back of their head the human beings are connected to a virtual reality. The aim of most of the people who realise that they live in a virtual reality is to escape and to defeat the machines.

In both films the fight between the two groups is a fierce one. This shall show that reality is something precious and that it is worth fighting for it when it is in danger. This becomes very clear in Matrix where people prefer living in a destroyed and inhumane, yet “real” world to a worthwhile life in a virtual reality.

2.2. Escape from (virtual) reality

Although both films depict reality as something people should think about and appreciate, for the characters in the films reality has an absolutely different value. In eXistenZ Allegra Gellar calls the human body a “cage which limits him [and] keeps [him] trapped and pacing about in the smallest possible space forever”; and she says to Ted Pikul: “Break out of your cage, Pikul” (Calvin 285). Allegra Gellar does not see the human life in this human body worthwhile because there are so many limits we have to face. Therefore, she has invented her video game “eXistenZ” through which people can escape from reality and have unlimited experiences in a virtual reality.

In Matrix it is completely the other way around. People live in a virtual reality whose rules of time and space can be overcome (although most people are not aware of this fact). Nevertheless, people try to escape from this world and want to experience “real” reality. Some manage to break out of, to escape from this virtual reality and to live in the real world that is ruled by the machines. Although they have to live under inhumane conditions, they appreciate their lives in the real world because the have realised the value of having the opportunity to experience reality.

2.3. Free will

The issue of a free will is connected to the issue of escaping from reality and the appreciation of reality. A main feature of a human being, maybe the feature that makes him humane, is the fact that he or she has a free will. Obviously a human being generally does have a free will in reality. In these two films the question whether a human being can have a free will in a virtual reality is dealt with in a different way.

In Matrix human beings captured in the virtual reality do have a free will. They can do what they want and probably this is the reason why things like violence, war or intrigues also exist in the Matrix.

In eXistenZ people playing this video game do not have a free will. Their body and their mind adjust to the game. Consequently the players do not do what they want but what is appropriate for the character they play in the game (e.g. Ted Pikul kills the Chinese cook although he does not want).


Excerpt out of 17 pages


The depiction of virtual realities and the transition between parallel realities in "eXistenZ" and "Matrix"
University of Innsbruck  (Department of English Studies)
Narrative Analysis of Literary Fiction and Fiction Film
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Narrative, Analysis, Literary, Fiction, Film, virtual, realities, eXistenZ, Matrix
Quote paper
Stefan Hinterholzer (Author), 2006, The depiction of virtual realities and the transition between parallel realities in "eXistenZ" and "Matrix", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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