Essays about The Matrix
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
The new Matrix movies will be remastered on IMAX
Saturday, April 19, 2003
I just picked up a copy of The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real
. I've been meaning to get this for a while now. I will post a review after I read it.
Monday, April 14, 2003
More Ideas about The Matrix as a Love Story
Reader John (firstname.lastname@example.org) contributed these additional ideas about The Matrix as a love story:
1. In the very beginning of the movie when Trinity is talking to Cypher he mentions that she should not be the one that relieves him. She also says that she will take a shift to watch (or get to know the person that she will fall in love with). You also talk about Cypher being jealous but I think the first sign of that is in this scene as he jokes about her liking to watch him (Neo).
2. When Trinity and Neo are in the subway, she tried to tell him that she is in love with him but that confuses her. She is confused because she is in love with him and the Oracle told her that the person that she is in love with will be the One. However, Neo told her and Morpheus that the Oracle told him he is not the One.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Reader Abhinav (email@example.com) contributed the following essay, which I edited very slightly:
I was reading up on the Russian/Armenian mystic "Gurdjieff" who was an
influential spiritual thinker and guide in the early and mid-20th
century. He said that the function of all living things is to
"efficiently burn and transform energy" for a "higher cause" (I have
not read sufficiently about him to go into detail about what the
"higher cause" might be, but anyways). He states further that only
human beings are evolved enough to be capable of controlling the rate
at which they expend energy into the universe.
The point is, his idea about the essential function of living things
being to burn energies in a very specific way for the sake of the
universe was naturally an instant throwback to The Matrix
humans are depicted as being energy cells for the machines. Further,
that humans are able to and should attempt to free themselves from this
unending cycle of illusory life is a total parallel to Neo and co.
freeing themselves from the Matrix.
Now I don't think for a moment that the Wachowski brothers "lifted" this from
Gurdjieff or anything like that. I just think it's an interesting
parallel. Further, G. did not present the universe as an evil entity
that selfishly chained humans into being its energy cells at all costs.
It's just that most humans are still living essentially animal-like
existences, not thinking too much about what they are doing, and
freeing oneself from the "chain of daily existence" is an entirely
voluntarily thing. As said in the movie, some people are too deep into
the illusion to be safely woken up. Naturally I could go into a lot
more detail about this, but I shall stop here. A quote about Gurdjieff
is given below.
"One of the chief principles of Gurdjieff's system is the place of man
in the universe. He saw the cosmos as a living thing, kept and fed by
the law of reciprocal maintenance - whereby every class of existing
things produces energies or substances that are required for
maintaining the existence of other classes. "Man, like every other
living or non-living thing, is an 'apparatus for the transformation of
energy' and he is specifically required to produce sensitive and
conscious energy needed for maintaining the harmony of the solar
system. He can produce this energy voluntarily, or involuntarily. The
first way is by 'work on oneself;' that is, by striving for
self-perfection. The second way is by dying." (Bennet p. 191) These
'maintenance' energies are produced by all nature but man alone has the
capacity of increasing the quantity and improving the quality of his
'psychic' energies, but only by a conscious will and effort."
(originally published here
The love story in The Matrix
is so subtle, the first time I watched the movie I barely noticed it. In fact, at the end when Trinity declares her love for Neo, I was a little surprised. But after repeated viewings, I've come to appreciate the understated way the relationship is shown. Trinity's feelings for Neo are communicated almost entirely through body language, and the meaning is very obvious once you know to look for it.
It makes a lot of sense when you consider that both Neo and Trinity are programmers. They are not the type of people who would spend a lot of time talking about their feelings (and imagine how boring the movie would be if they did!). [Note: I'm not making fun of programmers -- I am one myself. But the stereotype of programmers as being introverts has at least some basis in fact.]
Also, Trinity has heard the Oracle's prophecy that she will meet a man, fall in love, and the man will be the One. So the relationship's development is complicated by the fact that Trinity already knows what is going to happen.
Things to watch for:
- When Trinity and Neo first meet in the club, she stands very close to him, chest to chest with her head next to his, to talk into his ear. One interpretation would be that she just doesn't want to be overheard, but there would be other, less intimate ways to accomplish that. Put yourself in the situation: what it would imply to you if someone used that body language?
- When Neo is introduced to the ship's crew in the real world, none of them say much to him, they just look at him. But Trinity's reaction to their first real-world meeting is a little different than that of the others. She runs her fingers through her hair, in a self-conscious/flirtatious gesture.
- When Trinity is helping Neo get set up to "see what the Matrix is", her body language is somewhat affectionate considering the situation. This is a pretty subtle point, but imagine how any of the other characters might perform the same actions.
- When Trinity brings Neo some food aboard the ship, notice how she spends time looking at him while he is asleep. Look at her expression, and the way she moves.
- When she exits the room, Cypher says to her, "I don't recall you ever bringing me dinner." He is jealous and resentful.
- The Oracle says to Neo, "You're cuter than I thought. I see why she likes you." "She" refers to Trinity, of course.
- Near the end, Cypher reveals that he had been in love with Trinity (at least at one time). Interesting how Trinity(the word means "a group of three") is part of a love triangle with Neo and Cypher.
- The "vase is going to break" theme [where it is ambiguous whether someone's knowledge of the Oracle's prediction may have caused the prediction to come true -- Tom] is repeated, not only in Neo's choice between Morpheus and himself, but also in Trinity's relationship with Neo. If the Oracle hadn't told her that she would fall in love with The One, and if Morpheus hadn't told Trinity that Neo was the one, she probably wouldn't have even considered him romantically. [This item submitted by MuddDrgn@aol.com]
At the end of the movie, when Trinity kisses Neo and he then returns to life, one interpretation is that her kiss "awakens" or "revives" him. This is a restatement of the Sleeping Beauty myth, though with the genders reversed. Symbolically, Trinity's kiss and declaration of love resurrects Neo and transforms him into the One.
Trinity: "Neo, I'm not afraid any more. The Oracle told me that I would fall in love and that man, the man that I loved, would be the One. So you see, you can't be dead. You can't be. Because I love you. You hear me? I love you. [They kiss, Neo opens his eyes.] Now get up."
The Oracle had told Neo, "you got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something." In The Matrix as love story, it is Trinity that he was waiting for. She enables him to use his gift.
Keanu Reeves says The Matrix
is a love story in this article: 'Matrix' is love story, according to Reeves
Visual References to Other Movies
(originally published here
- When Neo goes to meet Morpheus, and the characters walk up the stairs, the stairway is shown from above, looking straight down with a dizzying, turning camera angle. This could be a visual reference to Hitchcock's Vertigo.
- Near the end, when Neo and Smith face off in the subway, the two of them stand there for a moment looking at each other, with their hands hovering at their sides, and a few scraps of newspaper blow across the space between them. The camera angles, poses, and general effects here are a visual reference to High Noon (and other Westerns). The blowing scraps of newspaper may be the equivalent of tumbleweeds. Reader "FSKarasek" adds that the audio cues here have a strong bond with typical Western gunfight scenes. "There is the sound of a rising metronome during the standoff scene just before the shootout begins. the sound is like a stick being hit upon a block of wood with a constantly rising tempo, just like you might hear in a Clint Eastwood shootout scene on a dust blown dirt Main Street in an Arizona ghost town."
- At the end, when Neo and Trinity kiss, sparks fly behind their heads . . . quite literally, because the sentinels are attacking their ship! But this "kiss = fireworks going off" visual image could be interpreted as a reference to corny old romance movies and TV shows.
firstname.lastname@example.org has suggested the following additional references to the movie Vertigo:
The initial chase scene in the Matrix across the rooftops with the cops pursuing Trinity is nearly identical in structure to the first scene in Vertigo, with some shots set up exactly as filmed by Hitchcock.
The elements seeming very similar are:
- The shot of one of the cops who almost doesn't make the jump from one building to the other (shot looking directly up from below) is practically identical.
- I think the scene on the roof begins with a shot of Trinity's hands on a ladder? If so, then it's another element that invokes Vertigo.
- The tin roofs with the sounds of clattering footsteps as they run.
Monday, April 07, 2003
The Matrix as a Buddhist Metaphor
(originally published here
- The central problem facing humanity in the movie is delusion. Most humans do not understand the illusory nature of the Matrix. Morpheus says:"The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."
- After Neo realizes the true nature of the Matrix and escapes into the real world, he returns to the Matrix to help liberate others, in the manner of a Bodhisattva.
- "... it is not the spoon that bends, it is you." (Said by the boy at the Oracle's apartment to Neo.) This (and perhaps other pieces of dialogue, too) seems like an allusion to a famous Zen koan. In the version of the koan I remember reading, three monks are looking at a flag waving in the breeze. The first says, "the flag is moving." The second says, "no, it is the wind that moves." The third says, "no, it is not the flag or the wind, it is your mind that moves." Credit goes to Pan93@aol.com for bringing this to my attention.
- Awakening: The first message that mysteriously shows up on Neo's screen says "Wake up, Neo." Later Morpheus says, "You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he expects to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth." The word "Buddha" means "awakened." Also, the song that plays over the end credits is called "Wake Up."
In the chat session
with the Wachowski brothers, the following exchange occurs:
wrygrass says: Did ideas from Buddhism influence you in making the film?
WachowskiBros: Yes. There's something uniquely interesting about Buddhism and mathematics, particularly about quantum physics, and where they meet. That has fascinated us for a long time.
Color Themes in The Matrix
(originally published here
uses color themes, where a single color dominates many scenes in the movie. Some other movies I've seen that use this visual technique are The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and Temptation of a Monk
, to name just two. The three main colors (other than black) in the movie, in order of how often they occur are Green, Blue, and Red.
The green color theme starts at the very beginning of the movie, and it is the most often used theme. The green-on-black theme may be a reference to old monochrome computer monitors, which often displayed green on a black background. The original Compaq Portable computer was like this, for example.
Green theme notes:
- The initial WB logo is a special green and black version, as is the Village Roadshow logo.
- The start and end titles are green lettering on a black background.
- The glyphs that appear on the monitors in the Nebuchadnezzar are green on black.
- Neo's alarm clock shows green letters on a black background.
- When Morpheus is in the Matrix, he wears a green necktie. When he is in the real world, he doesn't.
- The wallpaper in the Oracle's apartment is green, and all the walls in that building are painted green.
- The Oracle's outfit is green.
- "All of the Exit signs in Neo's city are green, and not the typical red color." -- quoted from Jen's Matrix Site [Note: reader email@example.com explains that this is the standard color scheme in Sydney, where the movie was filmed, so this is not an "intentional" use of green.]
- Green seems to be associated with the Matrix. Most scenes in the Matrix use a green theme.
- Agent Smith's file folder that he brings into the interrogation room is green.
- Neo's telephone is green. [submitted by MuddDrgn@aol.com]
- Green may also stand for danger. The entire opening action sequence, where Trinity comes very close to being very dead, is very green, as is the interrogation scene, where Neo is bugged. [submitted by "teasmoke" firstname.lastname@example.org]
- During the scene with Thomas on the phone with Morpheus in the Metacortex building, it is the same green of the Xerox machine, like the Matrix is a photocopy of reality. submitted by email@example.com ]
The green and black opening title sequence of The Matrix seems influenced by another movie, Ghost in the Shell
. In Ghost in the Shell
, a Japanese animated movie, green digits on a black background rapidly change and then resolve into the title credit text. (The Matrix does it better, I think, but it is clearly the same idea.) Also, at the beginning of Ghost in the Shell
, green wireframe-like graphics on a black background are used to represent cyberspace.
The first computer displays seen in the beginning of the movie Blade Runner
(at the police station) also use these "retro" green-on-black displays.
Blue is the second most used color theme.
Blue theme notes:
- The scenes that take place in the Metacortex building (Neo's office) are blue themed.
- The delivery guy who gives Neo the cell phone is wearing blue.
- Scenes inside the Nebuchadnezzar (Morpheus' ship) are blue themed.
- If Neo had taken the Blue Pill, he would have returned to life in the Matrix without finding out what it really was.
- There is a blue sign outside the building where the cops are looking for Trinity in the beginning.
- Blue seems to be associated with the mundane. "teasmoke" (firstname.lastname@example.org) says "Blue would appear to stand for slavery in the Matrix. The office building scenes are blue, and there is the blue pill, which would have returned Neo to slavery."
- On the Nebuchenezzer, the chairs they sit in to return to the matrix are all faded blue. (Lordkobold@aol.com)
There isn't much Red in the movie. It is used for a few particular things, rather than whole scenes.
- The Red Pill gives Neo knowledge of the Matrix
- The Woman in Red appears in the training program, and later Mouse has an autographed picture of her.
- The chair Morpheus sits in when Neo first meets him is red. Those same red chairs appear later in the "staging area" program with the white background.
- The scene where Neo wakes up in the pod is mostly red or pink. [suggested by Cyberdolphin: email@example.com]
Robert King contributes the following analysis:
- I think you can say that RED would be the color that represents sacrifice for freedom. (RED usually indicates blood --> bloodshed is usually a requirement for freedom)
- Red pill = freedom
- Red woman = by longing for the woman in red Neo risks his freedom in taking a second look and almost getting shot by an Agent
- Red blood = end of the movie, when he bleeds and becomes freed from his mind and becomes "The One"
- Red "pod" = when he wakes up and sees the red stuff around him, he becomes freed from the enslavement of the Matrix
"teasmoke" (firstname.lastname@example.org) says that there is a yellow theme, too. I'm not sure about this, but here is the information so you can make up your own mind:
I think yellow stands for the AIs' control in the Matrix. I'm not sure, as we don't see yellow all that much, but the Agents' jackets have yellow linings, and Neo's did too when he was in the office building. Plus, the scenes with the Agents trying to break Morpheus (the AIs exerting control if they ever do) are yellow-tinted. However, they stop being yellow at all and turn to normal coloration when Neo and Trinity set the sprinklers going with the bomb-- when the Agents aren't in control of the situation any more.
Cyberdolphin(email@example.com) adds that the fight between Agent Smith and Morpheus in the hotel is yellow.
Allen C. adds the following:
I first noticed that the inner lining of the agents coats was a gold-yellow on my
fourth viewing. So last night on my fifth viewing I was observing this closely.
To my surprise I noticed that Toms coat lining in the corporate setting was
also the same color.
It was at that point that it clicked for me. It was showing the cowardice of
the wearer for being a cog in the System. In Tom's case for playing his part in
the corporate world instead of being his true self. In the case of the agents
for exploiting their superior powers to dominate and bully.
The cinematographer's lecture
"Renee" (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes:
I went to a lecture given by the cinematographer at Chapmn University in CA and he had something to say about the color themes, which are very real and intentional. apparently, the movie was shot entirely in either blue or green, using colored lights. There was a "green" world and a "blue" world, one representing the world inside the matrix and one in the real world.
Introduction to this site
A few years ago I created a site
full of essays about the movie The Matrix
. I got a lot of interesting feedback and ideas from readers of that site. Unfortunately, one day I tried to log into my site and found that I could not get in. Somehow the password had been changed. I contacted the company that hosted the site, but they said that there was nothing they could do, and I should just start a whole new site. Well, I've been meaning to start a new site, and now that I use Blogger I decided it was finally time to do that.
I'm going to transfer my favorite essays from my old site to this one. I'll clean up broken links and maybe add some new ones. Then, over time I will add new essays here. When the new Matrix movie comes out, my essays about that will be here.