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Film of the Week A Glitch in the Matrix (15)

MARIA DUARTE’S mind is blown by the world of simulation theory, and the people who believe they’re living in The Matrix


Directed by Rodney Ascher

WHAT if we were living in a computer simulation and the world around us wasn’t real? If so, with the rise of fascism (again) and the horrendous Covid-19 pandemic, the entity pulling the strings has a sadistic sense of humour. 

Filmmaker Rodney Ascher takes us down the rabbit hole of simulation theory — championed by sci-fi writer Philip K Dick (the creator of Minority Report, Blade Runner and Total Recall) and epitomised in The Matrix trilogy — in his new mind-bending documentary. 

However, it isn’t a revolutionary concept: it was first explored in the 4th century BC by Plato, in his allegory of the cave.

Yet Ascher explores the premise not only through philosophy, but science and conspiracy theory too: using a noted speech Dick gave in 1977 to an audience of fans in Metz, France; interviews with real people disguised as colourful avatars; and experts and amateurs in the field.

Styled like a computer game, with all the interviews recorded online, it is a visually arresting film.

Though the avatars prove to be quite distracting at times as people discuss in detail their belief in simulation theory and the unbelievable influence that the Matrix films and Keanu Reeves’s Neo has had on their lives.

The most striking story is that of Joshua Cooke, who describes (via phone) how, in 2003, he felt empowered when wearing a black trench coat and boots, like Neo’s.

After watching the film for the 100th time, he shot and killed his adopted parents. His lawyers invoked “the Matrix defence” (yes, it’s a real defence), claiming Cooke “harboured a bona-fide belief that he was living in the virtual reality shown in the film.” Mind-blowing.

It is a fascinating and thought-provoking documentary which, frankly, shows how many people (mainly young men) have watched The Matrix one-too-many times. The fourth sequel, due out this year, is going to send them down that rabbit hole again.

Maria Duarte 

Available to stream online and via Dogwoof on Demand


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