Credit: Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing / Sundance Institute
“We are living in a computer-simulated reality” – Philip K. Dick
For my money, Rodney Asher is one of the most entertaining documentarians working today, having covered subjects such as the secret messages in Stanley Kubrick’s‘The Shining’ and my personal favorite, night terrors. His films have a commonality of starting with a seemingly insane conspiracy theory and propelling it into believability using fascinating recreations.
His latest film, ‘A Glitch in the Matrix,’ dives head first into the popular theory that we all are living in a simulation. The idea itself seems ripe for exploration and immediately you can imagine conversations with scientists, inventors and leaders in the tech industry. This however, is not the route Ascher is interested in taking. From the opening sequence which finds a battle ready metallic lion warrior staring into a webcam and being interviewed, we know we are in for another unusual ride from him. As the film quickly sets off into what the theory of living in a computer might be, we are introduced into a cast of digitized characters who tell their own tales of how they arrived at the world around them being a simulation.
The movie moves at breakneck speed. In fact, it might lose viewers as it doesn’t hold your hand through the wordy science that is being discussed utilizing popular movies, games and often, clips from a panel that Philip K. Dick hosted in the 70s. The point is rather simple, as we continue to advance as a culture and our virtual world gets closer and closer to photo realism that one day, soon, we won’t know what reality is anymore.
In these uncertain times, where people run with anything they see or hear on the internet, the film poses its biggest comment in its final “expert”, a super fan of the film ‘The Matrix.’ Flash back to the late 90s early 2000s, where a young man rewatches the film over and over, pumping the soundtrack as he walks around in his long black trenchcoat. We can feel the tragedy coming as the interviewer describes in details the day he killed his parents. This births the legal defense called “The Matrix defense” a version of the insanity plea that has been used many times since this heinous act.
By showing us this in great detail and following it with a presentation of the legal defenses that have used this plea, it begs the question, is the director saying that art, whether it be video games or movies, inspires our perception of the world. That the film The Matrix and the music this individual was listening to truly set him on this path to kill his parents?
The film doesn’t stay much longer after positioning some of its more interesting ideas with its final story. There is a lot to unpack here and it both brings its viewers into the idea that everything around us may be a work of art and that living in this world may not be so bad afterall. Either way, there is a warning that living like life isn’t real is a danger to society and maybe it’s just best to keep playing along.