(The Vintage Tempest)
Premiered at Sundance 2021
Limited Theatrical Screening & Available On Demand Beginning Feb 5, 2021
Are we living in a simulation? The question raised decades ago by celebrated author Philip K Dick was never fully answered. The debate is ongoing and fiercely explored in Rodney Ascher’s fascinating documentary Glitch in the Matrix–and no it’s not about all the bugs in Cyberpunk 2077 that still needs patching. The whole program, according to multiple sources, is simply bugged!
Because this filmmaker includes respected names from the literary and science fiction community, the ideas presented in this 108 minute work aren’t necessarily far-fetched. Or perhaps, Francis Bacon’s Four Idols of the Mind makes more sense. I recognize a bit of his theory seeping into this documentary about altered realities, sentient machines, what we represent in this system (are we programs or independent thinkers?), and if we can escape from it.
The existential themes made this film is more than your typical science fiction action adventure that the Wachowskis film made famous. Machines took over, and instead of destroying the humanoid species, everyone continued living in a virtual world completely unaware of reality, where the meat bodies (consciousness) can be monitored and used as living batteries.
As for where our world rests, the documentary also compares this life to video games, like The Sims. The folks looking for a restart or thinking they can get away with breaking ethical codes got a rude awakening (as one segment about Joshua Cooke showed) and perhaps it’s because nobody can unfollow the Ten Commandments.
Instead, this documentary examines how this Matrix we live in relates to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The segment was short and I think it could have been expanded upon. Instead, the discourse about computationalism (cognitive behaviour results from computer programming) weren’t all that revealing. Instead, Ascher’s thought-provoking work is designed to get viewers to ask questions. Perhaps the biggest one of all is why wear or even hide behind masks. In the digital world, it’s possible to become anonymous, but the interviewees behind that Stargate the Movie designed Anubis mask and other simulacrums may well fear being ridiculed for their transhumanist beliefs. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
After last year being called a train wreck because of a global pandemic, I’m sure everyone wants a restart. If we’re to make comparisons, some video games have a save point to fall back to, making retrying certain levels in a role playing game easy. Maybe every night we sleep, the dreams we have tease at the true waking reality. Who knows, though.
In reality, we don’t have that luxury to correct those glitches in the matrix, including those mistakes made in each individual’s life–as this particular work mildly suggests. You either have to live with it or put it behind–and move on. But in theory, if the spiritual belief in reincarnation is real, perhaps a second chance is possible.
3½ Stars out of 5