Last year felt not too dissimilar to dystopian sci-fi with the Pentagon officially releasing “unidentified aerial phenomena” footage, reports of sonic booms beneath our oceans, monoliths popping up around the globe, self-propelling space rocks entering our solar system, Trump demanding all US UFO documents be declassified by June, and all against the apocalyptic backdrop of a global pandemic.
Now director Rodney Ascher (Room 237, The Nightmare) throws another reality rattling bombshell into the mix with his latest documentary, A Glitch in the Matrix, by proposing that we all might be living in an artificial simulation. Thank f**k, some might think after all of the above, but instead of rigorously exploring the science behind the simulation theory, AGITM more so focuses on and sensationalises the fantastic philosophies of a few ardent followers.
A Glitch in the Matrix is an incredibly entertaining, unique and energetic study that’s both innovative in design and execution thanks to Ascher’s savvy, yet it falls short of becoming the thought provoking powerhouse account one might have hoped for.
Key interviewees hide behind the guises of glitchy Lawnmower Man-like avatars to discuss the catalytic moments that made them believe in the hypothesis. Their stories are partly fortified by footage of Philip K. Dick discussing fragmented, residual memories he had of a “different present” which inspired him to write The Man in the High Castle, along with brief snippets of interviews with Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, who penned the article “Are You Living in a Simulation?”, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Elon Musk who recently stated that there is “one in a billion chance that our reality is NOT a simulation”.
Challenging counter-arguments questioning what kind of energy would an artificial simulation need to generate the illusion of free will, and whether or not there is enough power to render seven billion consciousnesses into being, are suggested but not dissected enough to make the film resound.
Instead AGITM flirts with notions, theories and suppositions involving the roots of déjà vu and concepts like The Mandela Effect, while the likes of tech advancements with VR, deep-faking and the video game graphics suggest there will become a point where we’ll be “simulated to perfect subatomic precision” and unable to tell the difference between the real world and digital reality, with pixel shifts on screen being likened to human cells regenerating.
People noting algorithms and supposed synchronicities make up the better part of AGITM by pointing to the fact that we are becoming a part of a rapidly secularising society of “chemical robots”, surrounded by automaton like non-player characters, and could all just merely be brains in vats.
AGITM takes a darker, compelling turn in the latter half by exploring a tragedy which occurred as a result of someone’s belief in the simulation theory, spawned by their passion for the Wachowski’s The Matrix. This provides Ascher’s film with a potent and commanding perspective about the power of pop culture.
Other stories about weird moments, coincidences and strange mental states never amount to too much, yet Ascher renders a dazzlingly vibrant, fun and punchy production, turning retro gaming imagery, glitching avatars, Google Earth and fantasy film clips into a dizzying flight of fancy that feels more fictional and fantastic than profound and probing.
Tall tales are melded into a fascinating unreality/portal via a flurry of impressionable minds, warped by pop culture and the overactive imaginations of people seeing patterns that may not exist, similar to those interviewed in Ascher’s masterpiece documentary, Room 237.
Predominantly Ascher colours these hypotheses without exploring possibilities as his film low-glides over simulation theory links with morality, ethnicity, cosmology and religion, citing parables with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Descartes’ Evil Demon and our primary reality being undermined by Hindu myths and philosophies.
AGITM skims over so much ground at breakneck speed, making it’s close to two hour duration bolt by, leaving the residue of a cosmic whirlwind in the brain, and frazzled viewer lobes buzzing like Tron in a bubble bath. Instead of providing any edifying enlightenment, it remains a wild ride. Just not a weighty one.
A Glitch in the Matrix is released on 5 February 2021 on VOD platforms and Dogwoof On Deman. A DVD and Blu-ray release will occur on the 10th of May, 2021.