There is a lot of talk these days in the scientific world about the scary possibility that we are all living in a computer simulation and aren’t actually real. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. But I’m not the only one thinking about it. Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s new film Glitch in the Matrix takes on the question using avatar clad interviewees alongside a famous speech by science fiction author extraordinaire Philip K Dick. Director Mike Cahill fictionalizes the question in his sci-fi flick Bliss. Neither of them really answers the existential question. But Glitch in the Matrix is at least somewhat entertaining. Bliss, not so much.
The main interviewees in Glitch are all extremely silly computer generated fronts for the actual people. At first it’s funny, but it gets very distracting as it goes along and doesn’t really serve any purpose. The film relies heavily on viewers understanding the current video gaming landscape, so its audience would mainly be a younger crowd. Many of these people discuss various incidents that prove the world isn’t real, though they also talk about being addicted to the worlds they play in. But most of them come off less like scientists, and more like wacky conspiracy theorists. There’s also a B story, that turns very dark by the end of the film, about a man obsessed with the Matrix films, who believes them to be real. All in all, it’s not the film I’d hoped to see about the subject. But it is somewhat fun.
And then there’s Bliss. What a disappointment! It stars Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson. She’s Isabel, a wacky, homeless woman who turns out to be from the “real” world. She meets Greg in a bar he’s wandered into after losing his job, and the two of them immediately click for some non-apparent reason. She looks like a woman that he’s been drawing. And she’s able to move things without touching them thanks to some cool crystals she shares with Greg. She also clues him into the fact that he’s one of the real people in a simulated world. And they go back to the real world, but have to reenter the computer generated one. And it’s all really about mental illness and drug addiction, but it’s so convoluted as to ultimately just be a mess of a movie. This is one to skip.
[Note: For Mainstream Chick’s take on Bliss, tune in to this episode of The Cinema Clash podcast. -hb]