A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX, directed by Rodney Ascher (Room 237, The Nightmare), delves into the question of identity. It uses old video footage of a speech from author Philip K. Dick (Bladerunner, Minority Report, Total Recall), and combines that with other viewpoints and voices from both experts and average people, who believe that our existence is a simulation. If that is the case, then who are we if our identity is made by an unseen force.
As a fan of The Matrix trilogy, as well as someone who is both intrigued and terrified by the thought that our reality is not real, A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX is both entertaining and all-around terrifying in equal measure. The film doesn’t solely rely on ideas of computer programming and games, but talks about theology as well as philosophy to explore the connectivity between them. It reminds me of the docudrama What The Bleep Do We Know!?
However, where the possible architect of reality is ourselves for that film, A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX clearly discusses that someone—or something—else is crafting this world and thereby our experiences of said world. It’s the Mandela effect on a universal scale, where we can only catch glimpses (if we’re lucky) of the reality outside of our own, similar to The Animatrix where Dan Davis runs so fast and his speed and energy propels him briefly outside the matrix. The underlying issues with discussions of who is at the helm create hazards as well.
Similar to religion and God’s will, there is a danger in the underlying belief that far too much that occurs is because of a “grand plan” or a creator’s whim. If that is the case, the individuals or smaller programs are not responsible for their actions or behavior. After all, if the program is created and consists of a particular set of choices, and the best choice lies outside of those, what can one do? Like religion, this is the current way to argue both about our existence and why the world is the way it is. It’s not better than religion—especially if you see the condescension and other negative behavior exhibited by those who believe in simulation theory like Elon Musk—and, point of fact is just more of the same under another word.
Nor is it different from a philosophical point of view. The concept of reality, the observer, creator, or first mover has been explored as well. From the actuality/potentiality idea Aristotle used to Descartes’ cogito, ergo sum— ”I think, therefore I am”, all of these are attempts to explain our perceptions, our choices, our experiences and, at times, our feelings of disconnect to the world and those in it as well as rationalize and excuse our actions.
One of the uniquely entertaining portions is the use of digital avatars for some of the individuals interviewed. You’ll also see clips from some of your favorite films like Tron and Avatar as well as clips from games. It would logically, I suppose, stand to reason that if we can create games where we are in the driver’s seat, there is a possibility that we are also in a game where someone else is steering us. But all this stems from a premise that a higher being would have the same logic as us and therefore we can predict their actions to be of a certain nature. Just because we create things in our own likeness, does not stand to reason something at a higher level would also desire the same. Again, in these conversations, we are hindered by our own beliefs and experiences.
Of note is that the film showcases a lot of white people, especially white men discussing this. So, there is little to no inclusion. Although we can’t be certain about the avatars but, even if so that is still problematic. There is only a brief clip of Neil Degrasse Tyson and an image of Lee Malvo, the D.C. Sniper, in the midst of Joshua Cooke talking—another Black man convicted of killing his adoptive parents. So, the only Black person, that we know of, who talks for any length of time is a Black, mentally ill, convicted killer.
The lack of proper inclusion is a problem, especially including one Black person who is serving 40 years for murder with possibly nothing else outside of that. Ultimately, it’s the viewer’s choice how much they want to believe. This is another way of explaining life, deja vu, synchronicity, and the Mandela effect. I enjoyed this because I’m a fan of ideas about reality and how much control we, ourselves, have. But I do not look beyond that to guide me, and I do not use it to shirk my responsibilities or accountability for my choices.
There is too much in the world, from inequality to white supremacy to excuse it as a creation outside ourselves. It may be a comfort to some that the world functions as is because of a simulation or “God’s will” but change never came with comfort. If you’re into these discussions, watch. It is entertaining to be sure.
A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX had its world premiere on January 30 at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be available in theaters and On-Demand on February 5, 2021.
Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.