Review by Sean Boelman
Audiences are likely used to documentaries depicting reality, but filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s newest film A Glitch in the Matrix stands out by questioning reality. Sure to leave most viewers with a broken brain, this is unlikely to win any new converts for simulation theory, but is one of the more entertaining exercises in speculation nevertheless.
In the movie, Ascher offers an exploration of simulation theory and explores the evidence for and against the idea that we are living in a simulation. A lot of people are going to dismiss the film right off the bat if they think of it as ridiculous conspiracy theory, but there is still value in observing how and why these people think as they do.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Ascher’s movie is that it sets its aim too wide. On one hand, a significant majority of the film is composed of testimonials from people who have experiences that seemingly “confirm” simulation theory, but Ascher also wants to offer a comprehensive history of the theory, and it is too much to fit in a single feature-length movie.
Even though the film does feel overstuffed, it has a frenetic energy to it that is pretty entertaining. Ascher’s movie is heavily dependent on oral storytelling, and so it has an almost rehearsed feel to it at times, but he is able to pull a really compelling narrative out of all of these people’s experiences.
There is something interesting about the way with which Ascher approaches his subjects. One would expect a documentary to take a strong stance on their stories, either presenting them as prophets or crackpots, but the film presents them in a much more nuanced way. It is intriguing to see how earnest the interviewees are.
On the other hand, the movie offers some interesting ideas regarding the evolution of simulation theory. In a way, the documentary serves an alternate function as an exploration of how media influences society. This is really only prevalent in a few of the segments, specifically the ones dealing with the Wachowski Sisters’ film The Matrix, but these are the most interesting parts of the documentary.
Ascher’s style, as can be expected if one has seen any of his prior documentaries, is a bit all over the place, but therein lies a lot of its charm. Instead of regular talking head interviews, the interviews are animated with virtual avatars. The impact of this ultimately isn’t very strong, but it’s a cool gimmick nevertheless.
A Glitch in the Matrix takes a concept that probably shouldn’t have made for a good documentary and turns it into something enjoyable thanks to Rodney Ascher’s inspired directing. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who are willing to read between the lines will be intrigued.
A Glitch in the Matrix hits VOD on February 5.