September 16, 1999

Matrix, Lacan, Zizek, the Buddha

I saw the film The Matrix  recently and wondered about how the film could be changed to make it more "Lacanian," or Buddhist.

The first thing that dissappointed me was that there was an ordered reality outside of "the matrix".

That "reality" is a sort of simulation lies well with my understanding of Lacan. But that there should be a another world - where we are all plugged into some alien/robotic lifeform's power supply in rows upon rows of cocoons - seemed definately paranoid.

I wished that the rebels had found out eventually that both worlds were part of the matrix: that the world of the cocoons in the "power station" just another simulation.

And then perhaps that they have found yet another "world" resembling the grey mist (or, to follow the computer analogy, static as shown by an untuned television) like that Zizek uses as an analogy for the real in his use of the novel "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag".

"[they are told]... do not under any circumstances open the window of their car.... Randal and Cynthia start to drive home. Things proceed without mishap as they follow the prohibition. But then [for one reason or another] Randall asks Cynthia to lower the side window a little. (Zizek then quotes from the novel)

"She compiled, then gave a sharp intake of breath and swallowed a scream. He did not scream, but wanted to. Outside the window was not sunlight, no cops, no kids -- nothing. Nothing but a grey and formless mist, pulsing slowly as if with inchoate life. They could see nothing of the city through it, not because it was too dense but because it was -- empty......" (Zizek then comments)

This "grey and formless mist, pulsing slowly as if with inchoate life," what is it if not the Lacanian real, the pulsing of presymbolic substance in its abhorrent vitality?" (Looking Awry" p15-16)

Secondly it seemed a shame that there should have been 'an other of the other', a menacing desiring, enemy/other behind the Matrix. I would have preffered, from my "Lacanian" perspective that "the robots" that seem to be controlling the matrix for their own ends should, I think have been found to have no "ends" "goals" or "desire" but (as the rebel sees the cocoons dissolve into the above grey mist) he finds out that the machines were active only in their production of the matrix, which they made for the "enjoyment" or joussiance of those within it, and as computer programs, found to be not other than the matrix itself. (An agent could say, as he dissolves, "We were only doing for you, we are you,
a tool of your desire")

Thirdly, I would have preffered a less romantic, less "hollywood" climax to the film. That "Neo" should have been able to see through the simulation (matrix) as a result of being loved by a woman outside of it (in that final scene where he stops the bullets) seems the precise opposite of what it should have been. Instead I would have preffered that it had been shown at first that the woman in the cocoon world loved him, and thenwhen he realised that that world too, including especially her, is another essentially narcissistic (since the machines/matrix are on his side) simulation that he broke through "both" matrices. But it was a hollywood film.

Perhaps the hero should have been the "traitor", who pointed out that Morpheus was simply preventing the traitors from having their fun with (in my version) illusory stories of a rebel reality.

While I think that the agents should not have been autonimous I think that what the chief agent had to say about human's being unhappy with the first version of the matrix - designed as a paradise - was interesting... "Unless there is suffering, minds try to wake up" might translate to be an interpretation of the reality principle? Reality is suffering? I dunno, but the film was quite stimulating in a nerdy sort of way.

I wrote the above review in 1999. Now in 2003, having seen "Reloaded" it looks like Revolutions may show that the rebel world is also indeed an illusion. After all Neo has started to have powers in the rebel world (at the end of Reloaded) which he should not have if that world is reality.

Posted by timtak at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)