The Matrix [Monday, Apr. 30, 2007, 8:03 pm]
I had to watch "The Matrix" for class this week, and I think I understood it a bit more than the last time I watched it - not only because that was several years ago, but because for part of the time there was a teenage pillow fight going on behind me, which naturally made it hard to concentrate on things.
I suppose it's become even more obvious to me how extremely post-modern that movie is. The characters often appear very detached and unemotional in nature. I remember the first time I watched it, at the part where it looks like Neo has died, and Trinity suddenly revives him by revealing that she "loves" him. One reason I found that scene unappealing was because it almost seemed like it was attempting to be fairy tale-esque, only much colder and somewhat gender-reversed as well.
I guess it also goes back to post-modernism in that the only real displays of "love" are actually either mocking it, or almost negating it - I mean, what had ever happened between Trinity and Neo before that point to suggest that there was anything like love between them? Maybe a few gazes, glances, and life-saving escapades? Not to say that many other representations of love in Hollywood movies are much more convincing than that, but this one seemed almost glaringly lacking to me. Almost as if it was intended to be that way - and maybe it was.
What I find equally odd is the both obvious and less-obvious references to Christianity throughout the movie. I would definitely have to disagree with anyone who would call this some kind of Christian allegory though. Sorry, simply throwing in Biblical names like "Zion" and "Nebuchadnezzar" and having a "savior" figure does not constitute Christian allegory. There are all kinds of other philosophical views and ideas that are presented at various points as well - unfortunately I think we like to just latch on to the parts that we can identify with, and ignore the parts that don't fit, or try to minimize them somehow.
It is interesting though, how Neo is portrayed as a savior. "Neo" basically means "new," Neo rearranged spells "one," and the name "Anderson" literally means "son of man." It's as if the two parts of him, the human, and "the one," are coming together like God and man in Jesus. The Neo in this movie is really nothing like Jesus though - simply ripping off the "savior" story doesn't automatically merit a level comparison.
Another way I have heard of this viewed as "Christian" is the fact that the matrix - the world that most people see as real, isn't actually real. In some ways, perhaps this could be compared to earth - that even though we live here, it isn't really our home - that heaven is actually far more real than anything on earth will be. The Matrix really isn't an accurate comparison of this though, because in the movie, the only "real world" is a barren wasteland - and so while it may be "truth," the fake, computer-generated world of the matrix was actually more appealing. I think I sympathized a little more with Cypher this time around - not in what he did, but because he desired something more than what he had been told was "the truth."
I guess in some ways he could be compared to those who refuse to believe in an afterlife - they would rather experience the pleasures of this world and not worry about what is really true. Then again, "the Matrix" doesn't work as a Christian comparison, because the truth is that the "real world," heaven, really is better than this fake world. That wasn't the case in the Matrix.
That whole concept actually reminded me a lot more of Narnia than Christianity - that scene from the Silver Chair where Puddleglum refuses to be deceived and defies the evil witch by saying that he would still believe in Narnia even if it didn't exist. That even if her hollow, dark, underground kingdom was all there was, he would still cling to Aslan and Narnia, because they were more real to him than what she told him was "real." I guess in some ways that's what Cypher wanted too - he just tried to attain it in a far less noble way.
One of the key ideas in post-modernism is that of skepticism toward reality. Of questioning whether something is real or isn't. While "the Matrix" certainly isn't intended as any kind of Christian message, I think that kind of skepticism can be seen in a Christian light, if viewed correctly. I think it makes perfect sense to, on some level, question the reality of this world. But it's only worth it if the artificial nature of this world causes us to see heaven in a clearer light.
So there's my take on that. There's so much more that we talked about in class, but I felt like talking about this instead. Although - little sidebar here - we did all revile Keanu Reeves' acting too. Seriously - I think he was cast because he looks good in sunglasses. And I guess his largely expressionless face can work to the advantage of the whole post-modern detachment that was present, and make it actually look like acting. I remember once I watched "The Lake House" with some friends once - there's this one scene where he's sitting at his table, and all of a sudden starts crying - and we all just burst out laughing... because it was funny - it really was.
Anyway. Good movie. I hear the sequels sucked, so I guess I won't bother with those. I'm glad there are still "thinking" movies out there though.
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009