It has been years since I have seen The Matrix, and it really held up – with lots of new things to think about even though I have seen it many times in the past.
The main thing I was thinking about this time was Cypher – how attractive is it to ‘un-know’ our bleak reality and choose a more palatable one?
There are many religious overtones The Matrix (eg with Neo as a sort of savior figure), but I find the religious impulse in Cypher most compelling. The title of a documentary about Camus comes to mind: The Madness of Sincerity. How sweet it would be to forget our existential despair:
CYPHER You know, I know that this steak doesn’t exist. I know when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, do you know what I’ve realized? He shoves it in, eyes rolling up, savoring the tender beef melting in his mouth.
CYPHER Ignorance is bliss. Agent Smith watches him chew the steak loudly, smacking it between his teeth.
CYPHER Mmm so, so goddamn good.
I read this choice Cypher makes as the same sort of choice one might make to believe there is something more / better than our short lives full of suffering. I actually wonder if I really had the same full choice as Cypher if I wouldn’t act differently – the problem is, we do not actual have this choice – while we might adopt some sort of religious belief in an alternative, we do not have the same ability to un-know our reality that Cypher would via the deal with the Agents.