The above mentioned borrowing from westerns is not the only one. The Matrix, as a good postmodern work, plays with conventions and motifs and, therefore, quotes all the time. The directors play with viewers, making them guess the original sources – and those are numerous. From the Kafkaesque scene of Neo’s interrogation to the shooting scene that resembles of Arnold Schwarzenegger entering the police station in the first Terminator. From antagonists in a form of mysterious agents, resembling of a modern myth of Men In Black, to Neo playing Superman in the final scene.
Or from the Alien-like scene of debugging Neo to the reversed version of the Snow White. Not to mention quoting Through the looking Glass and The Wizard of Oz. But probably the most important citations are those from the Bible. The anagram of the main character’s name is One and he is often, though not directly, referred to as the Messiah. Other biblical images, as the one of Zion, continuously reappear throughout the film. And all of that is served in the sauce of mixed and blended conventions: of science fiction film, of action movie, even of romance and horror – and all of that with ever-present touch of humor.
The general concept of The Matrix – of the virtual replacing the real – enables one to treat the ‘not-really-real’ reality presented in the film as text and, therefore, allows textualization of the whole story – and of the character’s lives – to a degree not possible in any conventional setting. What we used to consider real is said to be nothing more than simulation. What we used to consider fantasy is now a frightening reality – that of machines taking over the world. But the future people mostly live within the text, within the fantasy created by the machines – within the matrix.
Most of them are only readers, taking this simulated reality ‘as is’. But the initiates can shape it to their will, just as creative readers can reinterpret the text. The most vicious antagonists, sinister agents, are neither people not even real beings, but merely computer programs. The agents exist only within the text, yet they can harm, even kill. Here, a play with conventions is also a play on words: those agents look like government officials working for a secret bureau, but an agent is also a computer program that automatically performs complex tasks.
Additionally, not only Neo, but many other names of characters have symbolic meaning as well. The man who wakes the human beings up from their seemingly endless sleep is Morpheus. The woman who completes the team of Neo and Morpheus is called Trinity. And, finally, the traitor’s name is Cypher, bearing a suspicious resemblance to Lucypher. Among the people who have seen The Matrix, there are those who may have liked its spectacular moments at first, but little by little grew disappointed with the film and, finally, started to disregard it, seeing it as nothing more but a series of kung-fu fights in science fiction setting.
Many reviewers think that way. But people who like the film can watch it innumerous times, and every time they see it, they spot new elements and layers in this postmodern riddle. References Appignanesi, Richard. 1995. Postmodernism for Beginners. Cambridge: Icon. The Matrix . Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Warner Bros. 1999.
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