VOD film review: A Glitch in the Matrix
James R | On 05, Feb 2021
Director: Rodney Ascher
Cast: Nick Bostrom, Joshua Cooke, Erik Davis
Watch A Glitch in the Matrix online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / Dogwoof On Demand
Ever since Rodney Ascher peeled back the curtain on fan theories in Room 237, The Shining has never been the same – and Ascher has been a filmmaker whose fascinations are never less than fascinating. The same is true of A Glitch in the Matrix, which embeds itself in the sub-culture of The Matrix fans who think that our entire world is just a computer-generated illusion.
Ascher traces simulation theory and similar doubts about reality back from the Wachowskis’ modern sci-fi classic to genre grandaddy Philip K Dick, whose books such as The Man in the High Castle still linger in their influence and ideas today. But the meat of the film is made up of interviews with modern figures, who all weigh in with their own views and beliefs, chiefly involving the suspicion that things aren’t real or that something isn’t quite right.
There’s a serious, timely resonance to our society today, a place where the line between fact and fiction has become increasingly distinct and some people reject the former in favour of misinformation, conspiracies and polemical propaganda. Ascher isn’t interested in that kind of bigger picture. Instead, he zooms in closer on the muddled web of theories doing the rounds. A segment dedicated to the Mandela Effect – a real life phenomenon that sees groups of people incorrectly remember things (such as Nelson Mandela dying in prison) as being true – is the gateway into them, and Ascher ties those together with the rising research into artificial intelligence (the film is peppered with quotes from Elon Musk) and world-building within Minecraft.
Some of the interviewees appear in their own digital avatars, which lends a bizarre, amusing and sometimes unnerving tone to the talking heads. That’s as close as Ascher gets to passing comment or judgement on their perspectives, although moments where we hear about a young man who committed a horrible act of violence because he thought he was in The Matrix are a chilling indicator of the dangerous consequences of disconnecting from the world. The result lacks the self-aware charm of Flat-Earther doc Behind the Curve, or the depth to really interrogate with the origins of each person’s beliefs, but this head-spinning essay is nonetheless a compelling peek down a digital rabbit hole.