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Thursday, May 22, 2003
the only (other) thing I'll post about the matrix, swear to god
There is always a point when I go to see a movie in a theater that I laugh and no one else does. [Brief side note: this reminds me of what one of my favorite teachers, Mike Reynolds, said about seeing Todd Soldonz's Happiness: everyone laughs, but no one laughs at the same time, so you immediately feel really weird about laughing at the pedophile joke.] And in the case of the new Matrix movie, there was a bit where I was laughing for a good minute, which was a minute longer than anyone else. I haven't seen it addressed elsewhere, and since it deals with two things not usually stressed in discussions about the movie--specifically, love and Krautrock--I figured I'd throw it up here to be spat at.

Unfortunately for this post, I can't quite remember whether this happens at the very end of the movie, after Neo rescues Trinity, or in the middle, after they leave Zion and are still debating prophecy stuff, but at any rate, Neo's doubting himself per usual, and Trinity turns to him and says, in this very clear, "this means something!" voice, "You made a believer out of me." And I laughed, because I couldn't help thinking of the Can song "Yoo Doo Right," whose chorus goes:

Once I was blind, but now I see / Now that you're in love with me / You made a believer out of me, baby / You made a believer out of me

(quoted from the Geraldine Fibbers' nicely loud cover, which is the version I'm familiar with.)

Now, obviously I have no idea if this was a conscious reference, but it really stood out to me, and regardless, it's interesting in context. Obviously there's the first connection between gaining visions of reality through faith as in the first movie, but then there's the implication that the cause is love and not some weird metaphysical conceit. There's also the negative interpretation of the statement: that the speaker is, in fact, blinded by love, and what he thinks is seeing is actually illusion, and the Matrix refs are pretty obvious there. It suggests as well that Morpheus' faith is kind of akin to obsessive romantic stalking, and Trinity's faith is sustained by a personal connection instead of an abstract belief, which is a very modern thing, of course.

But the really interesting thing is the way it reflects on the Christian imagery in the series, admittedly more present in the first one than the new one. They get the Jesus thing with being chosen, and the special powers, and the savior bit, but then they move on to Gnostic / Buddhist metaphysical riddles, and what's lost in the Christian tradition is the love. Love often gets lost when talking about Christianity--either fundamentalists want to turn tolerance into intolerance, or skeptics willfully ignore it in favor of the numerous abuses by its practitioners--and while that's hardly surprising for nerd-porn such as this (it's good stuff, but humanist redemption drama it ain't), it's also kind of unfortunate. You find this more positivist view of the Christian tradition (especially the xtian theological tradition) in writers like Chesterton and Voeglin, and there it's remarkably productive and, well, humanist. I guess the Trinity thing is already uncomfortably close to veering into Hollywood "love conquers all!" territory, but it is suggested by that line, and it shows what's lacking in Neo. That all-encompassing love for humanity is weirdly absent in the Matrix's cosmology--Neo seems to want to save them mainly out of obligation and guilt, or a love for Zion, and not because he actually likes them, a view encouraged by the mechanistic role humans take on in the Matrix's setup. I guess this is understandable and ties in with Neo's regular-guy (-with-super-powers) iconography, but it's still a bit weird.

Oh, and so is Can. What the fuck is that doing there?