Set in the near-future, eXistenZ depicts a society in which game designers are worshipped as superstars and players can organically enter inside the games. At the center of the story is Allegra Geller (Leigh) whose latest games system eXistenZ taps so deeply into its users’ fears and desires that it blurs the boundaries between reality and escapism.
When fanatics attempt to assassinate Allegra, she is forced to flee. Her sole ally is Ted Pikul (Law), a novice security guard who is sworn to protect her. Persuading Ted into playing the game, Allegra draws them both into a phantasmagoric world where existence ends and eXistenZ begins.
The name of the game is eXistenZ, a system based on technology so advanced that it borders on biology. It’s a quantum leap ahead of anything ever imagined possible. The top executives from Antenna Research are all on hand for the testing of their new game, but what sends a buzz of excitement through the audience is the presence of the brains behind eXistenZ, the adored gaming goddess herself, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), hip, hyper-aware, sexily alluring, and utterly dedicated to her invention.
The air is crackling with anticipation in the small community hall where dozens of gaming devotees are gathered to experience this ultimate adventure – one that will forever shatter the line that separates wild and unpredictable fantasy from reality. What brings such intense realism to eXistenZ is the fact that the game’s driver, a “pod” that bears a resemblance to a living organ, plugs directly into its player’s nervous system via a “bioport” or “spinal jack,” which has been implanted into each of these fanatical gamers. Because the pod has access to the memories, anxieties and preoccupations of its players, the direction each game takes depends entirely on who’s playing.
The moment finally arrives, and the eager players plug in for the ride of their lives, rocking and swaying, lost in the dreamy world of the eagerly awaited innovation. Suddenly, they’re jarred from their fantasy world by an anti-eXistenZialist protester wielding a strange weapon – an organic fusion of gristle and bone, capable of shooting its ammunition of human teeth at fatal velocity. Shouting “Death to eXistenZ! Death to the demoness Allegra Geller!” the man fires the weapon, severely damaging the game-pod.
In the pandemonium that ensues, Allegra is whisked away by Ted Pikul (Jude Law), a low-ranking Antenna Research employee who’s serving as a security guard for the event. A chase follows, with the unlikely duo of Allegra and Pikul seeking shelter in a world where nothing is as it seems, and where the villains of the game become real. A world where the hunters pursue our heroes right into eXistenZ, the game Allegra has invented.
Allegra is strangely at home here, but for Pikul, whose imagination doesn’t extend beyond dreams of the boardroom, it’s a landscape brimming with peril and danger. He’s uneasy in this odd land as he struggles to keep himself and Allegra ahead of the assassins out to cash in on the $5-million bounty that the Anti-eXistenZialists have put on the game genius’ head.
Allegra knows the terrain and its secret inhabitants. When she discovers, to her frustration, that Pikul has no bioport, she directs him to a seemingly vacant, isolated gas station. There an attendant named Gas (Willem Dafoe) implants a spinal jack into the nervous Pikul, whom Allegra has persuaded into testing the game with her. But, Gas turns out to be murderously untrustworthy as well, tempted by the bounty on Allegra.
With her game-pod damaged further, Allegra leads Pikul to an abandoned ski resort where a trusted gaming expert, Kiri Vinokur (Ian Holm) performs a sort of surgery on the eXistenZ game-pod and replaces Pikul’s sabotaged bioport with a fresh one. Then, in a secluded chalet, Pikul and Allegra finally find a haven in which they can plug in and let the game begin.
Pikul finds eXistenZ breathtaking in its realism, as the pair is launched into an eerie and strange new setting – a weird, updated Wonderland. The action is swift and full of fiendishly clever effects and plot twists conceived in the imaginations of the players as the couple explores deeper realms of the game.
Pikul and Allegra make love and are transported to the strangest setting of all – the Trout Farm, a former fish hatchery that’s been converted to an assembly line production plant for games. There, workers construct motherboards from the nervous systems of mutant amphibians amid a world of murder and espionage.
With an emboldened, ever more confident and heroic Pikul taking charge through much of the game’s decision-making, he and Allegra delve deeper into the dangerously intriguing game.
Finally, with the game threading its way through increasingly fantastic levels of intrigue, the forces of Anti-eXistenZialism close in on Pikul and Allegra.