The Matrix, directed by the Wachowski brothers, is a film that stimulates people’s mind to the point of developing their own perspective on what is real. This is revealed through the process the main protagonist, Neo, goes through as he is re-writing the rules that organize this false reality, to his own. This task of deciphering taken by Neo becomes even more clearer in Kilbourn’s article “Re-writing reality: Reading the Matrix” as he lays the groundwork for understanding the definition of reality, as well as showing how this process of decoding reflects a search for oneself. The film furthermore reveals that whether knowing fate determines your choices as it gives Neo the power to exchange fate for free will. This choice of free will and fate is further discussed in Daniel Madar’s article “Fate, Will, and Forecasting”. Overall, not only does the Matrix have this act of decoding and encoding that develops a process for the characters to find a way of self-reflectivity, but it also reveals that the development of deciphering the truth is shown through this path of free will and fate.
What Neo thinks is real is just a figurative idea, there is this virtual reality instead designed by what used to be our society’s artificial intelligence. So, the task of deciphering the truth about reality as it is, is first emphasized through the scene where Neo is chosen to take the red pill or the blue pill. When Morpheus offers Neo the two pills you can see Neo in the reflection of Morpheus’s sunglasses: the one on the left is reaching for the red pill and the other is not-emphasizing the split in reality and what makes the matrix and the world he lives in, different. So, by taking the red pill, his eyes are turned towards more real existence and he can have the truth of the matrix and learn that the world he was in before were lies and just an illusion. The Matrix steps outside of the predictable reality, as its presence of the virtual world frees the mind that permeates our connection with what is real. However, the idea where the matrix and the world before are very similar to one another is emphasized in the scene where the mirror becomes a part of Neo after he takes the red pill. It showed that the liquefied mirror was engulfing his entire body. It is as if the filmmakers wanted to show the subject’s adjustment to the matrix as Neo “literally merges with it, the ‘real’ and ‘not-real’ becoming momentarily indistinguishable, as if in order to show that what has been taken for real is in fact as illusory as its cracked and distorted reflection” (KILBOURN). The film puts emphasis on this scene to show that the mirror is like the matrix, it represents how humans see their real self and it speaks the truth. As we know that the mirror confirms a lot about our existence and appearance, etc. So, through the idea that the world we live in exists only in our heads, the film illustrates the differences and similarities of the matrix to reality.
As Neo literally merges with the mirror, his journey continues as his remaining self-image is left behind in what he had thought was “reality”. This is the beginning of Neo’s process of self-reflectivity. Throughout the film, the audience can see Neo’s own point of view in some of the scenes of the film. Some examples include where he sees himself reflected everywhere: to the mirror, doorknobs, sunglasses and to even seeing his reflection in a spoon. His newly awakened self makes him experience a slow realization and that these reflections of himself “are metonyms of the self’s simulacral status in the Matrix (just as they are metaphors of the “authentic”-simulacral relation obtaining between “reality and the Matric in the film’s fictional universe)” (Kilbourn). This continues to emphasize the self-reflectivity as Neo wants nothing more than to remain control of his own life. Thus, this task of deciphering, is a way for Neo to search for oneself a self that has always been. As a whole, Neo’s self-reflections provides him an opportunity to continuously and actively create his life on purpose, as the audience and the characters in the film know that he is “The One.” However, when Neo goes to the Oracle, she leaves him in doubt to what his true path is because it appears that he has the gift but is waiting for something. The Oracle suggests that he is waiting for that something in his next life. This can refer to the moment where Neo dies and comes back to life in the end of the film. That particular scene is where Neo is now fully aware of his own powers and he is no longer at the mercy to the world around him, but instead the leader of his own life and is choosing the direction of his choosing.
Fate residing in the film is an unchangeable direction of things that set restrictions on actions to those who choose to go along with their fate while it gives Neo free will as he is given the ability to make his own choices. The desire for free will comes up as Morpheus ask Neo:
MORPHEUS: Do you believe in fate, Neo?
MORPHEUS: Why not?
NEO: Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life (Matrix).
As well as Morpheus saying that “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path” (Matrix). The path for Neo is predicted, as we saw with the oracle, however, the way Neo walks that path will exercise the use of his free will. To deal with fate, it requires a realistic understanding of what is possible and an acceptance of what cannot be changed. Will, existing in the human spirit, is the purpose that directs action and supplies resolve. The balance of fate and will sets the boundaries of practical endeavor. Passively complying with fate’s constraints requires the ability to adapt and cope. Actively pursuing one’s purpose in fate’s presence requires the ability to foresee and calculate.
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