It is quite some time ago since I’ve seen Matrix the last time. Actually, I cannot recall it. The film is mentioned in the course material relating to simulacrcum and articulate intelligence with some relations to Plato’s cave and Baudrillard’s rather dystopian description of simulacrum reality.
I was curious to see what to take from it. One aspect became very clear as I recognized it when watching Bladerunner before. With my new sensibility for visual culture and underlying theories, assumptions and beliefs, I am watching films differently.
On the internet I found a short video sequence of the ‘construct’ , that part that I found while watching the film most intriguing and relevant to the current discourse in this part of the course. Morpheus, one protagonist in the film, explains the theoretical construction of the fiction as simulation of the real world.
Appearance of reality is just a computer loading program, the ‘residual self image’ nothing else than a ‘mental projection of the digital self’. And the key question that are bothering so many What is real? Senses and sensation as experience constructed merely as electrical signals interpreted by the brain (Matrix).
Matrix builds on simulation of the world and human consciousness. In that same sequence there is clear link Borges’ fable about the territory and the map, where in a kingdom the entire territory was covered with a map and the map became the new real. Exactly as in the fable, the underlying real is just a dystopian desert. And as other dystopian films and games are build on ‘the ruins of Modernity’. Baudrillard’s order of simulation are presented through high-tech effects. Plato’s dualism of visual perception and pure thought can be
The film challenges the viewer to think about what is true. There are two aspects or discrepancies in the film that I feel worth to mention. Aspects that show that it is a film, and that it is pure fiction.
- The computer simulated world is a digital one, as mentioned a ‘mental projection’. Nevertheless, the protagonist who can ‘upload’ themselves into the simulated world, can die in the simulation. I could see parallels with computer games where the avatars are getting killed and game is over. The key thing here is that body in the real world is dying the same time. Thus a simulation has real impact in organism. What feels strange. I mentioned in an earlier post that a few online gamers, at times called binge gaming, died while gaming. But not because their avatar where killed but because they forgot to care and rejected to notice their own real body, the basic needs of an organism. Thus, this connection is not at all convincing and makes the film just another dreamworld fiction.
- Neo, the pratagonist, got ‘killed’ in one of the last sequences. According to the logic of the film, his body should be dead. But Trinity, the female protagonist, keeps him alive, through a kiss and true love. The bottomline of this message can be seen either as a typical Hollywood film romance, or as a critique that AI and computer simulations are just that, reality and truth lies between human beings, and love can not be mentally projected as a digital self.
Fig.1: Sequence on ‘Construct’ from Matrix, 1999
- Galactic Archive (2009) “The Matrix” (1999) — ‘Construct’ Scenes, [Video] Available from: https://youtu.be/AGZiLMGdCE0 [accessed 24 July 2017]
- Matrix – The Complete Trilogy (1999) Directed by Wachowski, A. and Wachowski, L. [Blu-Ray], Westwood, California