As we progress through our wholly digital age, one of the philosophies that continues to gain traction is the supposition, and the theory, that we could all be living within an unfathomably detailed computer simulation. The roots of “simulation theory” dwell in our exponentially progressing technology and capability to run increasingly realistic simulations—the reasoning goes that if it’s logical to assume we’ll eventually be able to craft “perfect” simulations and create digital “life” that doesn’t know it’s being simulated, then how can we deny the likelihood that we ourselves are that very same form of digital life, created by beings operating on a higher level than ourselves? These beings have been alternatively theorized to be advanced humans, or A.I., or aliens, but the gist is the same—that at any moment, the walls around us could come crumbling down with the reveal that our entire reality is a simulation.
These questions have long been the stuff of YouTube essays, but now we’re getting a feature length documentary on the subject from documentarian Rodney Ascher, a man who specializes in documentaries with often macabre subject matter. His previous films have explored the conspiracy theories behind obsessive viewers of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, via Room 237, and the stories of those who have experienced sleep paralysis, in The Nightmare. Now, with A Glitch in the Matrix, Ascher is taking on simulation theory. The film is an official Sundance 2021 selection, and hits VOD everywhere on Feb. 5, 2021. Here’s the official synopsis, and you can see the first teaser below:
What if we are living in a simulation, and the world as we know it is not real? To tackle this mind-bending idea, acclaimed filmmaker Rodney Asher (ROOM 237, THE NIGHTMARE) uses a noted speech from Philip K. Dick to dive down the rabbit hole of science, philosophy, and conspiracy theory. Leaving no stone unturned in exploring the unprovable, the film uses contemporary cultural touchstones like THE MATRIX, interviews with real people shrouded in digital avatars, and a wide array of voices, expert and amateur alike. If simulation theory is not science fiction but fact, and life is a videogame being played by some unknowable entity, then who are we, really? A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX attempts to find out.
It is worth noting that the actual aims of A Glitch in the Matrix may not be quite so straightforward as the synopsis and teaser make them appear. Ascher’s documentaries have a tendency to style themselves as explorations of a “topic,” but rarely is his interest genuinely revolving around the theories or conspiracies at hand. Rather, Ascher seems primarily interested in the people who believe these theories, and the films serve as character portraits of people existing on the fringes of “normal” or contemporary human culture. We wouldn’t be surprised to see A Glitch in the Matrix turn out the same way; ultimately examining those people who believe in simulation theory and asking what else they believe about our world, and how it affects their lives.
Regardless, check out the teaser for A Glitch in the Matrix below.