I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the symbolism scattered throughout The Matrix trilogy. The presence of the various “hidden” themes, symbols and messages is really one of the things that makes The Matrix such an iconic movie classic (not to mention the characters’ cool Matrix sunglasses!). Here are some of my thoughts regarding these various philosophical elements.
One of the most common symbols in the trilogy is the presence of rain and water. This probably signifies the unconscious state, rebirth, baptism or even a cleansing of the soul. There are many instances of this:
- It’s raining when Trinity removes the tracking bug from Neo.
- It’s raining when Neo goes to the Adams Street Bridge.
- It’s raining when Neo goes to meet Morpheus for the first time.
- It’s raining when The Matrix is populated by an army of Agent Smiths.
- Soapy water is running down the office window when Neo is talking with his boss near the beginning of the first movie.
- The sprinklers go off in the building where Morpheus is being held captive.
- Neo is “reborn” in a pool of liquid when he first gets extracted from The Matrix.
Black and white is also a prevalent theme, and in fact many of the scenes seem to be filmed in shadows or shades of black and white. Examples of this theme include the black and white outfits Neo and Morpheus are wearing while sparring in the training program, the black and white checkerboard floor in the Lafayette Hotel, the lobby scene during which Neo wears black while the guards wear white, and so on. Black and white is symbolic of good versus evil, reality versus illusion, life versus death, and so on.
Another thematic element is the concept of Déjà vu. This concept is akin to an illusion – specifically, the illusion of experiencing the same event more than once. Since The Matrix itself is an illusion, it’s easy to see how this theme ties in. Obviously the black cat scene is the most overt example of this, but there are other instances as well – for example when Neo is on the ledge of his office building and later on the ledge of the jump program.
Yet another thematic element is falling, which represents uncertainty and fear. Examples of this include when Neo is flushed out of the pod and falls down the tunnel, and when Neo falls onto the ‘rubber’ sidewalk during the jump program.
Another element of symbolism is smoke, which represents the blur between illusion and reality. In other words, The Matrix is nothing more than a smoke screen designed to keep humans at bay without them even realizing it. Examples of smoke include the Oracle smoking a cigarette, Cypher smoking a cigar while bargaining with Agent Smith, and the smoke bomb that gets set off in the hotel.
Finally, there is the concept of mirrors and reflections, which could symbolize self-awareness, wisdom, truth, and worlds within worlds. Essentially, The Matrix is a reflection of the real world (at least, how the world used to be). Examples of this include when Neo sees his reflection in a distorted mirror right before he emerges from The Matrix, when he sees his reflection in the machine that initially releases him from his pod, when he sees his reflection in the bent spoon, and of course when the various characters see reflections in sunglasses (especially the reflections of the red and blue pill that can be seen on the lenses of the Morpheus sunglasses).
Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now. Do you have any other ideas or examples of the symbolism and philosophical elements found within the trilogy? If so please drop me a comment below and add to the discussion. Until next time…