Analyzing the Movie: The Matrix (1999)

!!!Spoilers ahead. Don’t read the following article if you still haven’t seen the movie!!!

The Matrix is a 1999 movie written and directed by the Wachowski brother and starring Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. It won the Oscar awards in 4 categories –Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects. The Matrix tells the story of a world in which the so-called Matrix is an artificial reality created by machines for the purpose of taming, subverting and exploiting humans as sources of energy. The humans live inside this machine-made virtual reality as they are being connected to one another by embedded implants inside a network infrastructure. 

Neo (Keanu Reeves; Neo meaning New) – a software company employee – is looking for the truth about The Matrix. He can sense how it has control over his life and he believes that he is able to free his consciousness from it. Neo spends sleepless night after sleepless night in front of his computer with one single purpose in mind – finding Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne). Morpheus is a mythical hacker (in Greco-Roman mythology this is the name given to the God of Dreams) who can provide Neo with the answers he is looking for. On his quest for truth, Neo meets Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who takes him to Morpheus. But Neo’s answers are not as straightforward as he might has been expecting them to be. Morpheus tells him that no one can really say what The Matrix is – everyone has to see and define it for oneself. And this is so because each single individual is creating his own version of it. In other words, everyone experiences this version of The Matrix that he has created oneself. This motif of people as creators of their own realities is ringing some bells indeed.

Inside the mental domain, which also happens to be the underlying essence of each material thing, the created parallel realities are but the fruit of our imagination – they are product by the act of thinking – which everyone is materializing as the result of one’s firm choice between two opposing polarities. We experience whatever is that we have chosen to experience. As Jean-Paul Sartre* has put it: ‘’I can always choose, but I ought to know that if I do not choose, I am still choosing.” Our reality is the ultimate expression of our free will. The Matrix is not like most Hollywood movies – it is a movie about spirituality. In the movie, the infamous matrix code holds the key to cracking the virtual reality and it can only be deciphered by Neo. He is ‘’the chosen one’’ and his prophesied mission is to liberate humanity by finding the truth. And once humanity becomes liberated, it shall also become more virtuous and grateful.

The movie is well saturated with Biblical references. The martyrdom and messiah motifs can be clearly distinguished – Neo sacrifices his own life for the others as he then re-manifests stronger than ever. This comparison to the life of Jesus Christ illustrates that we are all Sources. In addition, the very choice of names such as Trinity (yes, as in the Holy Trinity) or the city of Zion continuously refer back to the Bible. However, the spiritual message carried by the movie is not to be completely attributed to the conventional Christian ideology. In fact, many of the most prominent elements of the latter are entirely absent from the movie such as the idea of an almighty God, of sin, of repentance and of forgiveness.

Actually, the movie’s message for the liberation of humanity from the illusion of the material world is more of a Buddhist motif than a Christian one. Yet, it would be wrong to state that The Matrix should be attributed to Buddhist ideology just as much as it would be wrong to state that it should be attributed to the Christian one. Buddhists wish to part themselves from the material world into one virtuous, peaceful and ethereal existence, whereas this is not the case with Neo. After he manages to escape the Matrix, Neo chooses to return to the almost entirely destroyed Earth, in order to fulfill his mission of liberating it. This brings us back again to the spiritual foundations of Christianity according to which the world is virtuous and good deep down in its essence, in spite of the confusion on its surface. Therefore, one should not try to save oneself by escaping the world, but by experiencing it. And this is a question of choice made by each one of us at each single moment.

*Fun fact: In 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature. However, he is only the second person in history to decline the Noble Prize. The first one to decline it? Nikola Tesla.

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