A Glitch in the Matrix is a documentary about the expressive and opinionated reactions to simulation theory, and the suggestion that our existence may be so trivial compared to a grand existential scheme we happen to be pawns or avatars in. The film is directed by Rodney Ascher, the creative mind behind other out-there docs Room 237 and The Nightmare, and while I wanted to get wrapped up in this interesting subject matter, I was constantly distracted by a pretentious and detrimental decision the filmmaker was getting himself caught up in.
Rodney Ascher is a wonderfully imaginative director who finds ways to elevate the typical documentary formula to keep up with his offbeat topics. He’s also a filmmaker fascinated with unique experiences and eccentric personalities. He’s stylistically topped himself with A Glitch in the Matrix, a film filled with wild sci-fi animations, but he also reveals how he can just as easily obsess over his subjects in the same way his subjects can obsess over Ascher’s topics.
A lecture by renowned science fiction author Philip K. Dick describing early ideas of simulation theory is used as a structural backbone for A Glitch in the Matrix, which then shifts over to the pop cultural influence provided by The Matrix in the late 90s, which reintroduced similar ideas to mainstream audiences and still contributes to present day theories. The documentary interviews experts with cultivated opinions about the world we live in, but Rodney Ascher also invites outsiders, disguised as digital avatars, who share their own enthusiastic takes.
Including passionate unprofessionals into a film’s discussion is what I’ve come to expect from Rodney Ascher. But, blending experts with enthusiasts at the same degree is when A Glitch in the Matrix became muddled and spoiled for me; especially since the filmmaker seems to favour the absurd.
For this documentary, Ascher needed to stick with one extreme. For a better example, please, look towards the memory episode of HBO’s docuseries How To with John Wilson, where our intrepid videographer starts off wanting to improve his short-term memory and naturally discovers the Mandela effect. It’s eerie, it’s funny, it’s filled with paranoia, and chooses to humour the absurd – it’s some of the best television I saw last year. By being unsure of its tone, A Glitch in the Matrix becomes one of the most disappointing films of the year so far.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie