A Glitch in the Matrix is a documentary, that could be interesting, that does have promise, but turns out that it is a documentary that thinks it has something to say when in truth it has nothing of note to convey. An utter waste of time.
What if we are living in a simulation, and the world as we know it is not real? To tackle this mind-bending idea, acclaimed filmmaker Rodney Ascher uses a noted speech from Philip K. Dick to dive down the rabbit hole of science, philosophy, and conspiracy theory. Leaving no stone unturned in exploring the unprovable, the film uses contemporary cultural touchstones like THE MATRIX, interviews with real people shrouded in digital avatars, and a wide array of voices, expert and amateur alike. If simulation theory is not science fiction but fact, and life is a video game being played by some unknowable entity, then who are we? A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX attempts to find out.
What becomes more fascinating the longer we get into A Glitch In The Matrix, isn’t the topic the talking heads are discussing. It is the people themselves, we get a range of people who believe in the simulation theory. Academics, scientists and journalists who can inform and structure their thoughts of the theory are here to bring you into this world, all the while the documentary intersperses Phillip K. Dick’s lecture in France. This is where the documentary should venture. But, instead, it focuses or uses several people who have “experienced” or believe they are in a simulation, which halts the doc and causes a Liz Lemon style eye roll to start. But then again, this shouldn’t be surprising from the man that made Room 237.
We are presented with these tall tales of falling in a car over 1000 feet and surviving. Of anecdotes of putting thought into the simulation of seeing an orange fish in 10 minutes. Then going walking for 10 minutes as the subconscious then looks for the fish after walking at least a kilometre in a city. Only to somehow to be shocked when they see an orange fish sign, as if a certain orange fish hasn’t been popular. As if that is what helps confirm things. By allowing these types of talking heads into the documentary, A Glitch In The Matrix loses itself. It becomes redundant as there is no sincerity, it is just shallow.
These people have many anecdotal stories that spell out issues with the participants who have social awkward encounters. A prime example is when Joshua Cooke, a fan of the Matrix and a fan on loner or solitary characters who murdered his family in 2003. He details the social and indeed mental issues that were prevalent within him. There are also questions to be asked why we have such a long retelling of his actions that night.
Any momentum the documentary thinks it has is halted as we needlessly listen to what happened. This could be seen as gripping as he details the events of the murders, why he went this way and the court case. But it isn’t. It is quite cold. If Ascher intended to provide a warning to audiences who venture down such avenues and allow the idea to take a hold it is truly lost and causes the entire piece to fall apart.
There is little reason to continue after this section as the doc has shown it’s cards and while it tries to reign itself back in by having another average interviewee say how he realised he perhaps isn’t quite in a simulation, but he thought he was in as it was easier for his childhood self to work out life. Now in his 40s, he doesn’t need it. This is where the film should have ventured, not into a bit of a shock jock play that doesn’t work.
The breakneck speed in which we hit each topic is confusing, There need to be more in-depth conversations about each topic instead of what we get here. This is a 108-minute film that could easily be cut down to an hour from what we are presented. By picking specific topics and delving into those more, even if it is the harm of thinking one is in a simulation theory, then you give the audience something compelling, otherwise, like here it all becomes far too flat right when the audience could be starting to be reeled in. By ignoring interesting science and documented theories we are given nonsense, and sadly that is a word that needs to be said for some of the main interviewees.
A Glitch in the Matrix falters like other Ascher documentaries have the chance to say something or delve into a world less discovered on film. Yet, it becomes to enraptured with itself and its non-academic interviewees who believe they have experienced things or seen moments that sway the conversation. This is also a very one-sided conversation and one that feels it is more directed towards the type of conspiracy crowd that go on 4 am binges on YouTube.
Which in truth isn’t a bad comparison for A Glitch In The Matrix. This isn’t a film to be at festivals or on streaming sites. It is a larger budgeted YouTube video that could have offered something but in returns the audience with nothing of true worth. There is nothing clever or insightful present here and that is what is truly frustrating about the film.
For fans of Ascher’s previous work such as Room 237, there is probably something to find here. Otherwise, this frazzled documentary remains a disappointment.
A Glitch in the Matrix is released on 5 February 2021 on VOD platforms and Dogwoof On Demand. A Glitch in the Matrix DVD and Blu-ray release is scheduled for 10 May 2021.
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