Rodney Ascher is a filmmaker fascinated by altered states of perception, from the obsessive theorists of The Shining in Room 237, to the experience of sleep paralysis in The Nightmare, to the hateful, misogynistic reality of The El Duce Tapes.

With Philip K. Dick’s 1977 lecture on how we are ‘living in a computer-programmed reality’ as his launchpad, Ascher reaches into the cyber network to consider the philosophy, cinema and believers of the simulation theory.

A Glitch in the Matrix imaginatively leans into digital technology to tell the story: the believers are represented by life-size avatars, such as a robotic Anubis with a pink bow tie, in their video call interviews with Ascher; the narrator is a synthesised voice; and landscapes of memory are built out of Minecraft, virtual reality and video game animation.

With the men as enthusiastic voices realising they live in a world where nobody else has feelings, agency or meaning, it takes the one female voice in the film to consider that simulation theory is also a symptom of isolation and shooter fantasies. 

A Glitch in the Matrix takes a chilling turn, yet wider politics and the question of mental health and identity – such as the fact that all the subjects, and gamers, and propagators of the ideology are men – are not directly addressed.

It’s both a fun and disturbing watch, with the gripping pace and energy that Ascher has demonstrated in all of his films, yet its apolitical approach leaves the viewer to connect the dots. It is perhaps his style, but could also be read as a choice not to alienate a fanbase demographic.

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