Director – Rodney Ascher, Producer – Ross M. Dinerstein, Music – Jonathan Snipes, Animation – Mindbomb Films (Directors of Animation – Lorenzo Fonda & David Force), Minecraft Animation – Anton Ascher, Enzo Garon & Milo Garon, Photogrammetry – BluePlanetVR. Production Company – Campfire/Highland Park Classics/Valparaiso Pictures.
Eyewitnesses:- Joshua Cooke, Paul Gude, Alex Levine, Brother Laeo Mystwood, Jesse Orion. Expert Testimony:- Nick Bostrom, Erik Davis, Jeremy Felts, Emily Pothast, Chris Ware
Simulation Theory is the idea that the world that we live in is a virtual simulation. The concept was popularised by The Matrix (1999) but in 2003 Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, who is interviewed here, began to apply the theory to real-life, asking how we would deal with life if we were living in a simulation and crucially how it could be proven. The idea has started to filter through into a whole host of internet conspiracy boards and reddit threads and now a number of films including The Mandela Effect (2019) and Bliss (2021).
A Glitch in the Matrix is a documentary about Simulation Theory from Rodney Ascher. Ascher first appeared with the wacko cult documentary Room 237: Being an Inquiry Into The Shining in 9 Parts (2012) about people’s bizarre theories about the hidden meanings of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Ascher next delved into fiction for the Q is for Questionnaire segment of ABCs of Death 2 (2014), followed by the full-length documentaries The Nightmare (2015) about the phenomenon of sleep paralysis and The El Duce Tapes (2019) about a shock rock band.
Ascher traces the history of the idea of Simulation Theory way back way before it was postulated by Nick Bostom. Interspersed throughout is footage of SF author Philip K. Dick at a Paris science-fiction in 1981 telling the story of the hallucinations that preoccupied the later years of his life – see The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick (2000) for greater detail – and his belief that everything could be a simulation or an alternate reality. Various of Ascher’s interviewees trace the idea of a simulated world back even further than that to the philosopher Rene Descartes, Hindu mythology and Plato’s view of the cave where all of the world is only projected shadows.
Ascher’s interviewees take to the idea of the simulated world in some fascinating ways. The film opens on discussion about how the concept of the human brain seems formed by the prevailing technological innovations of the time – the Romans saw it in terms of canals, the modern era saw it as a computer and more recently people have taken to seeing it as a simulated projection. The same interviewee also later creates a metaphor for reality in terms of Minecraft and asks what kind of life the Villager that inhabits the world would have when humans are not present, and how they would react if someone like Elon Musk unexpectedly appeared. Various of the interviewees discuss the idea of doing something that might attract the attention of the controllers of the simulation and what the world outside the simulation might look like.
As his previous films more than clearly demonstrate, Rodney Ascher has a fascination with odd and offbeat interviewees. All the interviewees here, for instance, are replaced by digitally created avatars. One of the more fascinating things that becomes apparent with each of the interviewees (called ‘eyewitnesses’ on the end credits) is that every single one of this is a gamer. One of them ponders towards the end of the film about whether their belief in the simulation might have been due to social isolation.
The documentary naturally spends much time on discussing The Matrix. The most fascinating of the interviewees is Joshua Cooke. Cooke talks at length how he became obsessed with The Matrix to the extent of buying a black leather coat and boots exactly like Keanu Reeves wore and believing he lived in a simulated world. About the time that he starts talking about how he would walk through the mall with the Matrix soundtrack playing on his headphones imagining he was Neo, you are starting to question the sanity of some of the interviewees.
The kicker that comes is when Cooke starts talking about how he walked down into the den where his parents were. There is then the jaw-dropping moment when he says how his mother turned around “And then I shot her” and goes on to casually detail how he eliminated his family with guns he had brought. Ascher then reveals the story of how Cooke committed the murders in 2003 and then at his trial offered up what has been called ‘The Matrix Defence’ – the belief he was living in a simulation – before deciding to plead guilty and being given a 40-year sentence. Cooke’s story comes towards the end of the film and is followed by various of the interviewees to one degree or another generally concluding that the world they are living in is the real one.