The end of the matrix model of Pop Gnosticism
For the French historian Marc Ferro every film is a document because it would represent the imaginary of a given society or historical period, “the imaginary is both history and history, but the cinema, especially fiction films, opens a great way toward the fields psychosocial history ever achieved by the analysis of documents “does not matter if the film refers to an immediate or remote past, since it always goes beyond its content.
Strongly connected with the social imaginary of the end and beginning of new century, the film industry today, particularly the U.S., reflects not only the technological vision transcendentalist like, well, existential issues, ethical and spiritual resulting from such imagery.
Perceive a clear change in the gnostic themes in movies final passage of a century to the beginning of new century. The years 1999-2000 mark a change of representation of the unreality of the world in which the protagonist lives.
In the first period (1995-1999) we have a simulated world by powerful technologies omnipresent and omniscient, able to create a counterfeit of reality so perfect that is indistinguishable from the original, at least for the perception of the protagonists. We have in this first phase the classical Gnostic narrative of a world created by a Demiurge (the technology) to trap human beings. The narrative presents a Manichean character (in the sense attributed to the Gnostic narratives of Mani) and we see an explicit and dramatic confrontation of the divinity of man against a crazed by the spiritual power and technology.
In Mad City (1997) we see a whole supra-reality created by the media circus surrounded the kidnapping unwitting that imprisons the protagonist. The film highlights the technological power of the omniscient and omnipresent media versus innocence and purity of the protagonist, seduced by character goal of TV monitors placed within the actual scene of action (Sam saw himself in the museum where they kept the hostages) . Truman Show (1998) reinforces this view of media technology, capable of simulating a world to create a new Adam. Explicitly inspired by the exprience tecnognóstica Oracle (The Oracle Project was to put in huge hangars of glass, erected in an area cm Tucson, Arizona desert, four men and four women, 3,800 plant and animal species and simulations of the five major biomes of the planet Earth. There were monitored for two years for two thousand electronic sensors and assisted by paying 600 thousand), this film is a clear example of the representation of technological vision utopian and end-of-century transcendentalist.
Pleasantville (1998) the power, not just technology, but magic of Mr. TV technician transports players to a TV series of the ’50s, a microcosm of perfect simulation of reality of Adams and Eves media. Indirectly, The Game (1997) will touch on that theme by presenting a company with such technological omnipotence and omniscience that is capable of interfering with TV broadcasts open (making the program interact with the protagonist) and produce a kind of game that also interacts with real life.
Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor (1999) explicitly represent the imaginary tecnognóstico the end of the century. Technoscience approach and mysticism to make computer technology as a means to spiritual transcendence possible. The metaphor of the units that are autonomous and self-learners to gain awareness in simulated worlds and the possibility of transcending consciousness of a simulated world for less than one are explicitly tecnognósticas. In both films we see creators of simulations Demiurgos become intoxicated by the power which, again, seek to extract from prisoners or the innocence of new energy “Adams.”
The obvious symbolism of Gnostic Manichaeism is Dark City (1998). Demiurges again (this time an alien race) imprison humans in a city-lab to get them the essence of the human soul. The city is a gigantic scenery recreated from fragments of human memories of all times, as well as Seaheaven of Truman Show is a copy of a copy of the advertising imagery.
“The collapse of the bubble the ‘dot com’ visionaries put back into their comfortable homes, and that’s return to the real ‘was further cemented by September 11. Utopian euphoria and dizziness post-human are out; stability and family values are in. Instead of ambition for the dissolution of borders, we see, at least in American politics, the restoration of anxiety for the defense of borders: nation, intellectual property, the Christian religion. ” (DAVIS, Erik, Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. London: Serpents Tail, 2004, p. 400).
Simultaneously, from Memento (2000), although Fight Club 1999 is already a harbinger, we have an amendment on the nature of the illusory world in which the protagonist is a prisoner. Now, the origin is in the mind of the protagonist himself. The illusory world may be the result of a neurological disorder or psychological (loss of short-term memories as in amnesia or schizophrenia on Identity (2003), internal conflicts (the feeling of guilt as in Stay, 2005) extrasensory powers (the gift of ubiquity as space-time in Donnie Darko, 2001) or diving into an inner world of memories as in Vanilla Sky (2001) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
The importance (or fear) symbolic of the new technologies and simulated worlds seems to deflate. This movement of “return to reality” seems to also reach the movies Gnostics. If, as Erik Davis noted, Gnosticism pop of “Matrix Model” had a paradoxical reinterpretation of Gnosticism (as in Gnosticism the world to be transcended is the material in the film world that imprisons the man is the mediations, the simulations and transcendence is the return to physical reality), after 2000 we have films Gnostics a return to a closer view of the concept of Gnosis: as individual salvation and inner transformation. All the Gnostic mythical narrative (Fall and Rise) is transposed into the protagonist in search of the hidden self that was trapped and that is still part of the Fullness.
Although all the films this is the Gnostic theme of faith in yourself (which is opposed to Catholicism where faith can only be in God), only after 2000 have a deepening of this aspect of gnosis. In the Matrix model “faith in yourself” is treated quickly, close to the philosophy of self-help (get rid of fears and personal limitations). Although the simulated worlds are technologically the arrest of the protagonist, technology plays an important role for this release: a simulation technology that produces consciousness and transcendence in The Thirteenth Floor or simulation games that help fights in The Matrix Neo overcome their fears and liberate consciousness.
In contrast, the crop of movies Gnostics post-2000 have these true “technology of the spirit” of reaching a critical way of being ridiculed. They are not only powerless to allow the inner reform, but they are in real or Archons Demiurgos that trap the protagonist. The powerlessness of psychiatrists and Identity in Stay, the puzzlement of the therapist and pedophilia author’s self-help books in Donnie Darko, the manipulative therapeutic way of erasing memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the failure of technology company that sells “Lucid Dreams” by not providing the irruption of the unconscious in his client in the film Vanilla Sky. The criticism presented to these “technologies of the spirit” recalls Mani’s warnings to avoid the temptations of consoling religion and hedonism as ways to combat the melancholy anesthetic. In Donnie Darko the followers of the pedophile writer of self-help are presented almost as religious fanatics and the technique to erase memories in Eternal Sunshine is actually a way of eliminating feelings of guilt for the client to live life so hedonistic.
As already presented Sfez (Thomas Sfez, Critical Communication, 2000), these “technologies of the spirit” have a secret alliance with the new computer technology to compare the human psyche to a software, hardware and a brain human interiority as a machine governed by the same principle as expressive of such networks: network, paradox, simulation and interaction. These “technologies of self” arrive at the crest of the wave euphoric over the Internet and computer technology and simulation. Apparently, the criticism of the technology of the spirit in movies Gnostics post-2000 line up to reflux technoscientific utopian dream.
Mestre em Comunição Contemporânea (Análises em Imagem e Som). Jornalista e professor na Universidade Anhembi Morumbi nas áreas de Estudos da Semiótica e Linguagem Audiovisual. Pesquisador e escritor, co-autor do "Dicionário de Comunicação" pela editora Paulus, organizado pelo Prof. Dr. Ciro Marcondes Filho e autor dos livros "O Caos Semiótico" e "Cinegnose – a recorrência de elementos gnósticos na produção cinematográfica" pela Editora Livrus.