THE STORY – Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher tackles this question “are we living in a simulation?” with testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in his for the answer.
THE CAST – Nick Bostrom, Joshua Cooke & Erik Davis
THE TEAM – Rodney Ascher (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
By Cody Dericks
Isn’t “The Matrix” great? What a cool, exciting movie with so much to say about how we view identity and destiny. It’s such a shame that it’s been co-opted as a symbol for lots of unfortunate ideas to some. For most people, it was their first introduction to the concept of simulation theory, or the idea that our entire world as we know it is nothing but a computer simulation of unknown origin and purpose. The unbearable new documentary “A Glitch in the Matrix” explores some of the facets of this theory and gives an unstructured platform to a handful of interview subjects who subscribe to this notion.
Director Rodney Ascher mostly serves as a glorified babysitter for the talking heads that he’s interviewed. These commentators are cloaked in head-to-toe digital avatars and given seemingly endless time to talk at length about their unorthodox worldview. These spiels are practically unsupervised and build in absurdity with absolutely no response from the filmmaker or the movie he’s crafting around them. To be fair to the film, I should’ve known I was in trouble as soon as I saw who the director is. “Room 237,” Ascher’s documentary on fan theories about Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” employs a similarly loose-to-nonexistent structure for its interviews. But the key difference between these two films is that “Room 237” shows clips from “The Shining” on top of the film lovers’ commentaries that sometimes silently disproves the more zany theories being presented, often to unintentional comedic effect. “A Glitch in the Matrix” merely makes visual the interviewees’ ramblings, either by showing footage that illustrates what they are talking about or by literally animating recreations of their monologues. The whole movie is nothing but isolating to those who aren’t already turned on to simulation theory and entirely pandering and redundant to those who are. It’s just so damn exhausting to watch.
All of this is unbearably frustrating and confounding but about two-thirds of the way through its runtime, the film takes a turn that pushes the film from ridiculous to tasteless. In a change of pace, we begin hearing an exclusively audio interview for the first time. A man recounts how his obsession with “The Matrix” first made him question his own reality, a refrain that’s common amongst the film’s interview subjects. But as he goes on, it becomes clear that he’s telling the story of how this fanaticism led him to murder his parents, and the reason we aren’t seeing him speak is because he’s in jail. It’s played in such a “gotcha” manner that it can’t be viewed as anything but exploitive. Not helping matters is the fact that this testimony is illustrated by digital renderings of the killer’s perspective, including everything but representations of his murdered parents. I suppose this is meant to serve as some sort of warning or counterargument to those who’ve built their lives around simulation theory, but it’s done in such a horrid way that I was left with nothing but disgust.
“A Glitch in the Matrix” is less of a documentary and more of an accidental exploration of unchecked narcissism. Perhaps the simulation is real after all because it would make sense that if it didn’t want us to question our reality, it might create a movie about itself that bores and exasperates its audience into not wanting to explore further.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Nothing!
THE BAD – Seemingly unsupervised, rambling interviews. Unchecked narcissism. A tone that somehow both bores and exasperates. A distasteful recreation of a real-life murder. And more!