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Intertextuality and The Matrix (1999)

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Good morning. We continue with our discussion of intertextuality and cinema. And today, we will be focusing with reference to a very popular film, ‘The Matrix’. Some of the key concepts that we will be discussing would be; simulacra and simulacrum, this is also the title of a book by philosopher Jean Baudrillard, the situation or condition of hyper real or hyper reality and Plato caves, and how Matrix draws on all these elements. Before we begin, we will just watch two clippings from The Matrix; so, we will be discussing. But I just want to draw your attention to a still – The Bonaventure Hotel, which is situated in L.A. If you are not familiar with this image already, this is something which is discussed extensively by many of our post modernist thinkers and also philosophers like Baudrillard which is a specific reference to the city of L.A. Now, why do we think, what strikes you about this particular image, The Bonaventure Hotel in L.A? Student: Glass facade Glass façade and what is being reflected? Student: The city scape. The cityscape and the cityscape as reflected in that, there is a simulation. So, this is not the city, which we are seeing right here, but an image of the city. You get me? So, second level of simulation. Now, what happens when you go inside in the Bonaventure hotel and you have to do some readings on your own, you will realize that Bonaventure hotel is a mini L.A.by in itself.It replicates L.A; it has elevators, it has shops and those shops mimic the city shop, the cityscapes.So, that was the idea behind constructing the hotel in such a way that it becomes a mini L.A.Now, I am going to just read you this particular reference from Baudrillard.And, Baudrillard has worked extensively on American cities and how they are created in such a way orthey have become so, that they no longer appear real. They appear as if they have alreadybeen created out of image of something that already existed before.It is what Matrix tells you basically. Baudrillard’s New York is a city of the mad set freed with the energyand electric buzz of the modern city taken to another level with its speeded up non-teleologicalactivity or lack of a real goal. The city is approaching an apocalyptic state of speed,noise and over consumption with its total electric light. And, I quote Baudrillard ‘the terrifying diversity of faces,their strangeness restrained as they are all into unbelievable expressions.The masks old age of death conferred in archive cultures are warn here by youngsters of 20 or 12.But this reflects the city as a whole.’ Baudrillard reads New York almostas a surrealist painting or text; his visions of clouds filling people’s head or comingout of their eyes, conflicts architecture and human subject.So, the idea is human beings mimic something else – what they are supposed to become;what we see in media images, we want to become that. We are no longer our real selves andthat is what Matrix tells us. So, we have become a collage of several things.Viji, if you remember what pastiche is all about, I would invite you today to talk us at least for two minutes.So, that is the Bonaventure, that the significance of Bonaventure hotel;it mimics everything that is outside, so you want to see L. A, just go inside Bonaventure hotel,you do not really need to understand the city as such.Coming to Matrix, Wachowski brothers and when they were brothers made in 1999; and, it isvery significant that a movie like this comes at the turn of the century. It is very interesting,some of the greatest American films, which interrogate what our society is turning into;they came in the year 1999 and 2000, I mean think Fight club.Setting of Matrix as all of you are already familiar with, it is 2099, twenty and ninety nine.Yes, it is dark and it is a dystopic vision of society. What is dystopic? As opposed toStudents: Utopian.Utopian – Utopian is an idealized and dystopian is a nightmare, a nightmarish city.Our hero as played by Keanu Reeves, he leads a doublelife as we already know. In day time, he works as a company man; he is Mister Anderson asthe agent Smith often calls him. He is the only one who refers to him as Mister Andersonthroughout the film, very politely; great actor Hugo Weaving. And his double life, hisother is Neo, a computer hacker. And, of course, we have already seen Trinity, a mysterious,enigmatic woman, who later on becomes his love interest. And, she introduces him toa Zen kind of a hacker Morpheus, as played by?Student: Laurence Fishburne.Laurence Fishburne. Now, in the scene, wehave just witnessed, Neo discovers the world he previously existed, existed in was a computergenerated, virtual reality program, and controlled by the A.I or artificial machines, mankind developed years ago.And now, what is a situation today? Machines have taken over the real world.Features of Matrix; and these are the things that we are interested in.One is the size, the sheer volume of content that goes in; I mean if you watch the second part, someparts you know just they appear as if they are set pieces. For example, Monica Bellucci’spart and her husband; they are the key makers. But they are there; they exist, they are tryingto tell you something, but we are going to get into the philosophy of Matrix also because.Philosophy was very important; people have written books on that. And, not just anybody,but a philosopher as important as Zizek; are you aware of this name?Watch it; there is a YouTube– z i z e k – Slavoj Zizek. He has, he expresses hisviews on The Matrix, he has also written papers on it. Are you familiar with that?Student: The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, he acted in.Exactly. Yes. We also get to see for the first time on the screen, bullet time; how bulletstravel in extremely slow motion cinematography. Have you watched the movie? Good.Wire-enhanced action – you all know; you are all familiar with, a close on heals for Matrix, we hadCrouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon. And, one of the reasons for its enormous popularitywas that, it duplicates the formula, the wired action; people want that, people could nothave enough of that in the Matrix. So, they wanted to watch it again and it was so successful.But it all began with some director who most of us like here and I think we had been discussinghim for quite a while, John Woo; a guy who made Face Off, a Chinese director.He is extremely fond of doing wired and enhanced action. He has made a couple of great Chinese movies;all thrillers, action movies in which he employs the use of wire and enhanced action and bullettime and slow motion, almost like a ballot, a ballot bullet, bullet ballet kind of a thingand beautifully choreographed Kung Fu fight scenes. I mean, all of you are familiar with Matrix.So, I do not have to get into it, but there is a scene where Morpheus trains him inside,almost like a Japanese kind of a studio kind of a place.So, major themes; human beings are reduced to almost batteries for machines and theyare being fed to the machines for their energy, the Matrix controls the creation and dissemination of ideas.Morpheus, why is he important? He directs the entire venture and he controlsthe revolution; he is trying to restore the workers to consciousness, workers are thereal human beings and not those a machines. Neo is repeatedly referred to as the savior.So, look at the biblical imageries and references. Even in the very first scene, when we areintroduced to Neo, what does the person call him? You are my savior; you are Jesus Christ.Remember? So, we have told at the beginning of the movie that look he is the super heroin the making, although he have no attributes of being a super hero at that point.So, nature of reality in Matrix; and I am coming to all these to intertextuality, why we think Matrixis a supreme example of intertextual cinema. So, it is ultimately impossible to tell thedifference between the real and the unreal as we have just seen in the scene, where Neo confronts reality.What is real, Morpheus asks you; is it something that can be perceived by your senses,the way you touch, feel, breath, whatever? So, that can be electrically simulated as well.So, what is real? Reality can be simulated and it can be better than the real.And therefore when you watch the movie, you will find the simulated worldis much more beautiful and attractive than the real world. I mean there have been criticsof Matrix; there are lots of critics on Matrix, everyone is not a fan. We enjoy the moviefor variety of reasons, because it is a great thriller and great entertainer but then the philosophy is suspect.I mean, are we trying to tell each other here that a simulated worldis more peaceful and more beautiful than the real? Because the real world is really bleak here,desert of the real; remember, that is the term he uses.And we have come to a stagewhere people feel where human beings feel that a virtual real is preferable to normal reality;that is the idea that is been discussed. Now, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard,he gives us a term called hyper real, a situation where a kind of virtual reality is producedby models of what we want reality to be. Bonaventure hotel; we want L. A. to be like this, we donot want to look at the seamier side of the city, we want the prettified city.So, we simulate L. A. and called the inside of the Bonaventure hotel that this is L. A; thisis mini L. A, this is the real L. A. But is it? No. It is the prettified version, beautifiedversion of the city. So, we want the reality to be like this and we produce certain imagesand we say this is real. But is it; that is the question. It is a beautiful philosophy;I mean you read Baudrillard and you will become a fan for life.A world; hyper real is a world in which simulation or imitations of reality have become morereal than reality itself. And, Baudrillard then very eloquently gives the examples ofthe Watergate Scandal and Disneyland which are exercises in duplicity, cover upsand simulationsThis is Matrix. And you have just seen Neo going through a volume of Baudrillard’ssimulacra and simulations.But what does he use the book for? Is he reading it?No, it is a hideout kind of thing. All his illicit games, he hides in one particular section of the book.So, that is also an interrogation of what kind of world we are living in.It is a commentary, it is a critic. He does not know that the world he inhabits is not real.And therefore, it is very ironic that he is reading a book like simulacra and simulation;but he is not using the philosophy, he is just using it for something else.So, you see the comedy aspect of this; very ironic. Matrix has no comedy of course, it takes itself very seriously.Baudrillard’s famous essay, a very long essay ‘the gulf war did not take place’.He is talking about the first gulf war, notthe one which took place in the 2000. There was another gulf war in the year when mostof you would have born; so that was 1991 I think. So, it is the part of Simulacra and Simulation,no not; it is not the part, they are two different books. The gulf war did not take place.What do you understand, if you have already done something from this?Have you? What does it mean? Two major books: Simulacra and Simulation and another the onewhich made him very famous, the gulf war did not take place. The gulf war took place right?It did happen. Why does he tell us, it did not take place?Any guesses?Go wild, you are watching Matrix. So, let your imagination go wild.Student: Maybe he is saying that the aim with which the America entered in the name of democracy,it did not happen. All the various activities maybe they are continuing still in the Gulf.Good, it is politics you are talking about. I am talking about media created images and philosophy.Tell me. Now, this was the very first time that CNN was given total controlover filming the war as it really happen; I mean I do remember, I watched the gulf wartaking place live as you know we have all these wonderful reality shows.It took place on television 24 by 7; that means that it is all, they are choosing what to show.Television tells you what to watch and the viewers controlled media prefers certain scenes,certain situations, which they want us to watch. So, the real war must have, but what we were subjectedto or what we were exposed to was a very glamorous, US centric version of the war.So, the gulf war, yes it took place; but at the same time philosophically, it did not take place becauseit was all mediated through media, media-saturated images that is the idea.The gulf war did not take place that is the very ironic statement. ‘The ideas and ideals’ that Baudrillardprofesses, that consumer culture has evolved from a state in which they are surroundedby representations and imitations of things that really exist towards state in which ourlives are filled with simulations. Objects that look as if they represent something else,but have really created the reality they seem to refer to. Think the Bonaventure hotel again.It represents something and it makes us believe in that representation as reality, as if this really exists.Are you able to follow this line of thought? In such a situation,the world of simulation increasingly takes on a life of its own; it becomes reality that is,I am repeating myself. We are living in a world, in a media-saturated world, whererepresentation is more important than reality and, it has come to a stage where we takethe represented version as the real, not the real. And reality is eroded to a point thatit becomes a desert. So, welcome to the desert of the reality.The reality looks ugly, because representation is so beautiful.Do we agree with this? I mean you have every right to contest Baudrillard.To what extent do you agree or disagree?Every 20 year old woman has to look a particular part that is what television tells you.Away, away; she has to appear in a certain way. A 25 year old man should be like this;that is what a set of movies tell us. I mean we had a great film critic recently with us inIIT and he was talking, he gave reference to Student of the year and he was talking to our class.So, Viji knows whom I am talking about. So, he was talking about the film Studentof the year and then he looked around, and he said I do not find anyone here; who resembles those students,I mean all of you are students but none of you resemble those boys or that girl.Why?Media tells you that a 20 year old girl is supposed to look like that, but does she?Do we have boys, who are as beefed-up and whatever,hunky as the boys we watch in those movies, movies of that genre?So, we have come to expect that certain kind of representations,whatever is their representation or simulation and we expect real life to be, the way theyare told to us in representations. And therefore reality has become bleak.Student: Ma’am in case of Gulf war case, there reality is shown as some short eventhough they are picky while choosing its survey picky, still it is not romanticizing or something.Yes, it does not, but it romanticizes or it lionizes a particular society’s supremacy over another.Student: Because if the show the images of American bombers,Exactly.Student: Bombing a particular building; it shows you that they are in control.In control and they are fighting a just war. And, it is through media images that we are told,that they are fighting a just war. Is it? That is a very contested term; it is not a class of politics.Student: But still not simulation but,No, what we watched is simulated. Television tells us what to believe; that is the idea,they have taken certain and chosen certain images and showed them to us. And, it is telling us,it is conditioning us to believe in whatever they are choosing to show us.If you read the essay, you will understand.So, representation and imitations, Agent Smith, thousands of Agent Smith;I cannot praise this actor enough, he is one of the greatest actors of our generation, wonderful.Absolutely.So, Matrix and how it draws on simulacra and simulation?As Morpheus introduces Neo to the real world by welcoming him into the desert of the real;and it is also a quotation from Baudrillard’s simulacra and simulation.Baudrillard by the way died in 2007.And it is the critic of the culture that we live in,a culture that distracts us from the reality that we are being exploited just as the machinesexploit the human in the Matrix. So, the idea is that we are living in a state of consumerism;consumer, culture exploits us, feeds on us the way machines feeds on human beings in Matrix.It is very interesting that there has to be a television set in the middle of the set,because it conditions the way we see the world.Another idea which Matrix is fascinated with is allegory of the caves, which was firstdescribed in Plato’s republic.When Neo is freed from machines, he is literally pulled from a kind of cave.We just watched the scene, when he cleansed and purified and his bodyrid-off all the mechanical stimulations. So, he appears as a new born baby; appears outof as if you know, he is coming out of a mother’s womb, all swabbed in blood and fluids.And, this is how, it is almost akin to his reality was just an illusion. And, that is what isPlato tells us, that the shadow on the cave walls are; what shadows are those,caused by statues but those statues are also mimicking real people. So, twice removed from reality,the levels of reality. And, this idea reached another level, a notch above in Inception.They are not meant to be taken literally, but they are allegories of something deeper.And, that is what Plato says; those who free themselves and come to perceive reality havea duty to return and teach what is real to others. And, that is what Morpheus does.So, Neo is the chosen one to save humanity from ignorance and acceptance of a false reality.And, the question that the movie raises is what is real?Very interesting scene; there is no spoon although you see the spoon.But is it real?This is the scene which takes place in the Oracle’s domestic setupThere is no spoon. There are no bullets. It is all your’,slow move, choreographed, action scene; there are no bullets.Another inter-textual, apart from very deep philosophically, philosophically deep ideasof Baudrillard and Plato; the film also draws on from popular stories and fables, sleeping beauty.Bringing the beauty to a conscious state by a kiss.Student: But here it is invertedExactly, beauty is someone else.And there is a scene where he is almost dead in the first Matrix; and she brings him back to life with a kiss,the scene is there if you watch the movie. Reference to, ‘Alice in Wonderland’Who is the writer? Lewis Carroll. So, follow the white rabbit. And,what is that white rabbit? What does that rabbit do?Student: Takes her to Wonderland.Takes her to?Student: Wonderland.Wonderland. So, follow the rabbit.And you will realize, you will come across a new world.And, his first transition to the real worldis by interacting with a looking glass. There is a scene through the looking glass. Thatis again a direct reference to Alice in Wonderland. You take the red pill and this will happen to you;you take the blue pill, something else will happen to you.So, eat this, drink this in Alice in Wonderland; again, the same idea.So, you have a choice which, what you want to be, by taking a kind of a pill.Pill is nothing but a metaphor for choosing your own path.Again intertextuality, inter-textual reference.A character in Matrix says, ‘we are not in Kansas anymore’; a direct lift from‘Wizard of Oz’, Judy Garland’s. How many of you have watched, Wizard of Oz? Please do watch it.Now, it looks pretty dated, I will accept. Even 20 years ago when I watched the moviefor the first time, it looked horribly dated. But there are certain films. But I will tell you what;Citizen Kane in spite of being short in black and white, still looks extremelydynamic, very alive, very contemporary. Therefore Orson Welles is considered one of the greatestdirectors of all time. Let me tell you, Orson Welles was never respected to this extent.A reputation had been revived especially by those directors, who came in Hollywood duringthe counter-culture period and during the European New Wave cinema; otherwise, Orson Welles,because he was so much of individualist, so much of his own person. At Hollywood, almost wiped him out,but then his reputation was revived. Anyway that was a digression.And, the wizard of Oz is another influence on a film.The world of liquid pods, when Nero is thoroughly cleansed and washed; and he has to go throughvarious stages, to various caves for purification.So, the world of liquid pods rings of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy.The Dante’s Divine Comedy seems to be a very popular text among film makers;in ‘Seven’ we have Morgan Freeman reading through and Brad Pittbeing what he is, he goes through the cliff notes. And we are talking about Blade Runner;image of an eye with very dystopic vision of the city, fire and hellish images,again a reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Any question? Any comment or any observation here?Let us talk about Matrix. I know how much you love Matrix, so let us talk about it.Anything that comes to your mind, when you think Matrix?Pallery? Unusually silent.Why do you like Matrix, if you like?Student: The way it, the way I can relate; it is set of reality or it is artificial reality to consume more culture.The way it? Student: The scene where, one agent who turns;Cypher, he sits in the restaurant and he says; we prepare such sticks and such things toreal, reality, such things. People tend to prefer artificial things rather than.Anything else? So, you are into philosophy of Matrix. Rehan, what do you like in Matrix?Student: The same idea can be apply to people who are actually not just consumer culture,can be ignorance of the say from point of view of faith, I can actually say it is atheist against believers.I can actually say it is rise of the proletarians against the capitalist.It is just conflict of two beliefs where an entire class or entire population is mired that sort of belief.Then the others actually; knowledge comes and others try to revolt.So Matrix, actually the premise is quite progressive; I think that is what he is trying to tell us.It is a very progressive movie as far as its basic premise is concerned.It is a revolt of a proletariat against those who are in complete control that is one way of looking it.It is also an assertion of someone who is a misfit; recognition of the misfitand the recognition of the nonconformist in a society which demands conformity.So, this is the thread that runs through most of the films, which followed the counter-culturecinema movement in Hollywood. The nonconformist, the outsider, the misfit is the hero.Neo is the hero; he is the savior. A group of people who are, who refuse to bow down tothe machines, they are the heroes. So, it is a fight; it is an unjust and unequal fight.But someone has to do it. So, that is the message. But then it is the very contestedmessage, because see he brought me something to; but what about the technical aspect of it,I mean the masses, which made the movie such a huge hit? It is a commercial hit.Of course, now it has become a cult movie. But in spite of its cultish status,it was a commercially, phenomenally big success.Why?Student: Stylish movie.Stylish movie. So, it is a highly, it did not become such a huge success, because of its philosophy.Definitely not because of its philosophy, because of the way it was shot.So, now, we are talking about a contradiction between philosophy and between commerce.Are you able to get me Vedhanth? Yes, there is a huge issue between what Matrix is tryingto tell us and what it is actually really aiming to do. It is telling us to be nonconformist.But it conforms to all the dictates of the market;John Woo's style of action, Tsui Hark’s, wired action, it is all there.Hero solves all his problems, because now he istrained in Kung fu and martial arts and he is very adapted that. And, they are wonderful set pieces;therefore I used that word, set piece, beautifully shot, chase sequence.I mean, it is one of the most watched scenes on the You Tube, where Trinity is on the runwith the key maker behind her; and there are chased by?Yes, that person, okay so Monica Bellucci’s husband. So, he is the one who personifies devil in the film.They are chase and you see, it has all the troops of a commercial movie.The chase sequences, the action sequences, the slow time bullet flying all over the place;so all these are highly commercial elements, but with liberal doses of progressive ideasand philosophy thrown here. Therefore, people have actually critiqued the movie becauseof its philosophical pretentions. The philosophy is just there as a garnishing, but it is something else;it is an out and out commercial film. Therefore, we like it.We do not like it because of its high sounding philosophy.So, they may quote Baudrillard or they may refer to Plato,but at the bottom of it, it is a huge success because of the way it was done, the way it was marketed.So, references again to religions, oracles,something very popular; so you have nice doses of Zen Buddhism, even from references to Hinduphilosophy especially in the third part, oracles.In part 2, second part, we have a sequencewhere Neo fights thousands of Agents Smiths. They just refuse to go away. It is like biblicallocus attacking the hero from all over the place. Again, very direct reference to bible.Yes, people can read into that but also on the surface, an excellently choreographed action sequence,a direct reference to Hong Kong martial art films.Also, inspired by Japanese anime movie; and, if you watch the film, it is called Ghost in the Shell,I am told this movie also has a huge cult following,Ghost in the Shell.The dystopic version of city, hero as the savior, the martial arts sequences, all theseare referred to ‘Ghost in the Shell’. Again as we are talking about, we have beendiscussing that Matrix negotiates between progressive notions of nonconformity and therise of the proletariat against those who are in control, those who compel us to conform.But it is also a very conservatively made commercial film.And, people have pointed out, Trinity begins something else: she is her own person, she is the one who liberatesNeo from his state of unconsciousness. And, by the time we reach the third part of the film,she is just relegated to being his love interest; she has no other role to play in the movie.I am sure most of you have observed this.And, very fashionable, very faddishphilosophical ideas, and spiritual ideas, spirituality taken from all over the place verses martial arts.So, martial art is actually the solution to all our problems that is what the film tells us.Student: So, the song which they play. There is a song by a band called, Rage against the Machine,it is called wake up. So, that also; I mean the band themselves are very nonconformistsand the idea using that particular song, the song itself is called wake up, to refer to his state of waking up.Even there is a point that the movie ends. I am sure in this class, everyone would befamiliar with that. It is the point, where the movie ends; and then Neo returns to thereal world and he is the savior now, a very messianic presence. And the song that playsis the rock song, wake up. So, that is the idea that he is here to wake people from theirstate of unconsciousness. They are a very nonconformist group, yes.But after all, they have a huge following.Student: state of commercialism is the idea.Absolutely, commercialized aspect of the music, yes.Any other observation?Student: There is a green tinge to whatever happens, what we call the world in which weinhabited and otherwise… It is very bleakish. So, there are twocolor palettes we have been talking about. What kind of color palette?It acts both as s patial-temporal difference,because the real world is somewhere else and the machine, the virtual reality is;I mean, it is 1999, the real world is a way ahead. So, spatial-temporal differencesare brought out through the use of colors and lights. Therefore, we call it a dystopic vision of our world,because the world in the future is going to be bleak, because we let machines run all over us.I am glad you are observing these features.Student: AkiraAkira?Student: It is great movie; I can also say that fantasies also are heavily inspired byAkira. Yes, the Japanese anime has been a very strong influence for most of these science fiction films.Please Swetha?Student: In 1984 and in Animal farms as well,it hold up in from 1984 the idea of machine controlling, acting as conformist.Yes, that idea is very much there. Yes.Student: In the first movie, the revolt againstthe machines, there is actually one or two individuals from that individuals’ messagegradually transform to the entire world Zion, all the people are actually finally finding;from individualism to a mass movement a transitions, I think that first…If you remember, see we had ‘Fight Club’, which also capitalizes on the same idea.An individual is starting a club, which becomes a metaphor for mobilizing a group.The other day, you were talking about discontent of masculinity. So, all that discontent men of our society,they come together and form fight clubs. Any other idea before we wind up?So start sending you preferences to Ranjith. Before we disperse, a couple of movies thatyou should be watching for the subsequent classes; one is ‘Up in the Air’Jason Reitman directed and a George Clooney movie, Up in the Air.Watch The Godfather please;watch The Godfather, specially the first part but the second is also beautiful.And then, how many of you have already; I mean, I am just hazarding a guess that this is not avery popular movie among the ideas, but prove me wrong, ‘Groundhog Day’?Oh! Impressive.Watch Groundhog Day. So, see you tomorrow.Thank you.