Are we living in a simulation? Some might say if this is the case then someone needs the sack, as this life is really taking the Michael at the moment! Regardless, simulation theory is a wild notion that has really taken off – unsurprisingly – since The Wachowski’s influential Sci-Fi hit The Matrix but which actually goes back much much further, as director Rodney Ascher (ROOM 237, The Nightmare) shows us in his latest mind-bending documentary feature, backed by the brilliant Dogwoof distribution. And this might be one of Ascher’s strongest opinion forming films yet! As we ask, are we really living in a real life The Sims?
Structured around an eye-opening 1977 Phillip K. Dick lecture in France, this documentary uses interviews with ranging participants (some of whom are coated in fantastical digital Avatars), CGI-rendered interpretations of their ideas/experiences and well chosen film/TV clips/real images, to delve into this subject’s unending potential, history and philosophies. This is a daring cliff dive into simulation theory which, taken at face value, might seem bonkers, but which is actually a superbly crafted analysis of humanity, possibility and danger in accepting a world that is simulated. Sometimes even a cautionary tale, that delves into how troubled so many of us are.
As it goes from Plato to Minecraft, A Glitch in the Matrix takes into account academic thought, as well as conspiracy-inclined contemplation and relays it to us in the most original and breathtaking of ways. The film tackles a range of thoroughly engaging subjects, none more than the nihilistic tendencies of man, our dark thoughts, the danger of realising an actual simulated reality and the strange Mandela effect (the belief and even memory of something taking place, that did in fact not happen at all). In these points the film is arguably at its most gripping and indeed frightening, presenting ideas that are compelling or uncomfortably palpable, as well as real stories that veer from madness to heartbreaking tragedy. Through such a complex and vast subject and hypothesis, Asher’s film still shows how the mind of mankind is still the most incredible and unpredictable thing of all. As we see ruminations on the preposterousness of our own bodies, ideas of faith and the eclipsing otherworldly feelings of loneliness.
At times the film is funny, at others it is alarming, and it is always visually intoxicating, but there are moments within when, no matter what our race or creed, the film is a poignant statement on how we are all in the same boat of living the best life we can, as we are constantly confused about its purpose and meaning. Backed by Jonathan Snipes’ soulful score (which particularly peaks during the coverage of a crazy airborne joyride story that ended in tragedy), this film is almost comforting in its idea that we all don’t really know what the reality is, so we should not become dangerously obsessed with chasing this particular virtual rabbit. Life, be it simulated or otherwise, and despite all our technologies, theories, experiences and research, is still a mystery to us, and we are all together as one, still sat back in the cave with our primitive ancestors regarding the answers to it all.
Absolutely nobody is currently making documentaries, or for that matter movies in general, like Rodney Ascher and, whatever your belief of the theory, he once again hones in on humanity’s response to his incredible chosen subject and the results are again intriguing and unforgettable. A Glitch in the Matrix is a deeply compelling, sometimes scary and sometimes strangely moving watch, and my current film of 2021. Outstanding.
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