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Sundance at Home with 'A Glitch in the Matrix'
Still virtual. Still festive.
What movie sequel titles go well with second impeachment trials? These few come to mind:
Die Hard 2: Die Harder / Die Hard with a Vengeance (death is not wished on anyone - the titles just make it all sound cool when you think about it)
The Empire Strikes Back (whose the empire in this scenario? all answers are likely right)
Return to Oz (“tis a silly place”)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (we’re in some uncharted territory here)
____: The Snyder Cut (everything up until now has felt so… )
Who else will be watching? What else will you watch?
Links (to read & watch)
“a niche built squarely in the midpoint between the spiritual and fandom communities, populated by people who believe wholeheartedly that they can project their consciousnesses into alternate realities — largely fictional ones.”
Sundance 2021, Part 2: A Glitch in the Matrix
There was always something about The Matrix that never sat well with me. When Morpheus is leading Neo through a crowd of people on a populated city street, he’s laying out a strategic and scary idealogy: That one should keep their guard up, as anyone still connected to the system is a potential enemy. This is followed through on when Neo and Trinity attempt to break Morpheus free from a trio of Agents, and massacre a large group of guards with sleek gunfire and surgical coldness.
The thought is that those still “connected” are essentially the real threats, since an Agent can pop out of them at any moment. In another way of thinking, they are threats because, at every moment, their worldview will present direct challenges to the righteous. It’s a great action film with much provocation for anyone to enjoy, but the implications and themes are terrifying.
Rodney Ascher’s A Glitch in the Matrix is somewhat similar to Chris Smith’s Collapse, in that both films do discuss troubling subjects with seemingly troubled subjects, but are ultimately dramas on the human condition to question reality itself, and what such an act does to a person and a people. The Matrix does this to an extent, but from the point of view of fantasy. Glitch takes this fantasy on headfirst and without judgement, letting the interviewees - shown wonderfully with superimposed avatars - talk and talk and talk straight into their webcams, expositing on their understanding of and backstory to their belief in simulation theory, the idea that we’re all living in a digitized world within a hopefully real world.
The chats themselves are almost all in extended long takes, where the people inside their animated avatar filters go on personal tangents of memories and logistical processes, only broken up with animated reenactments here and there - another kind of simulation. These takes feel confrontational, like we the audience are the direct listeners (which we mostly are) but never adversarial or harsh. We empathize and relate to each individual, even author Philip K. Dick in archival footage, not just because of their overall calm and friendly tones, but because deep down we can see their side a bit. We can see ourselves in their seats, feeling the same way.
Glitch is a data mosh on our singular and collective souls - if such things exist. Perhaps they do exist just by virtue of being brought into this review. One step leads to another leads to another, but that doesn’t make those steps significant to a whole necessarily, unless that whole represents an overly engaged observer. This is perhaps best shown in the Joshua Cooke segment, where an animated tour of his teenage home is laid upon his retelling of a particular tragic incident. He’s awfully matter of fact here, but never indifferent - it’s what it is. An engaged observers ourselves, we’re completely stunned by this revelation, upending or even affirming our notions about The Matrix and media itself.
Are we free from morality if reality is but a construct? Can we do anything? What is holding us back, and do we want to do literally anything if “freed”? Rodney Ascher definitely has a way of bringing out these anxieties and doughts and hesitances oh so naturally, but never lets it all contradict or complicate the heart of his film. After all, it’s not really about simulation theory, but about people. About how our minds and hearts work. About whose in control. About us.
Is this a companion piece to The Matrix? Not really. It’s not even a criticism of it. It does, however, play with our brains a bit. A Glitch in the Matrix goes for the head by way of the heart, or maybe vice versa. Superb and startling, breathtaking and compassionate. Not an ode to dreamers of dreams, but a fine cup of coffee with them anyway. Could Neo have done the same with any of those guards? Sure, but time is of the essence. Unless you believe that time is but a construct too, of course.