If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you are probably a fan of The Matrix. Many people like The Matrix for many different reasons – for example, the mind-bending nature of the plot, the incredible special effects, the intense fight scenes, and of course the ultra cool Matrix sunglasses, to name a few. That said, although all of those elements are truly awesome, for me the best part is the symbolism and philosophical elements that permeate the movie.
Obviously the most prominent philosophy of the movie is that reality is not real – rather, it is a manifestation of the mind (think: if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it fall, does it really make a sound?). This is an interesting concept when you think about it, and it directly ties into the core beliefs of many religions around the world. For example, many religions believe that our life on Earth is really a purgatory of sorts. Specifically, some spiritualists believe that life on Earth is nothing more than a test or stopover on our way to our true reality – the afterlife. The Christian notion of heaven is a prime example.
Another highly symbolic theme is represented by the blue pill / red pill scene. This scene essentially represents the hard choices that we all must face in life from time to time, such as faith versus science and good versus evil. And the beauty of this type of symbolism is that it transcends everything. It can be applied to real world scenarios (should I tell my wife I cheated on her or not, should I make today the day that I stop doing drugs, etc.), as well as mystical scenarios (should I have faith that God is real and there is an afterlife, or will I choose to disbelieve because there is no proof that this is true).
For Neo, I believe the writers were going for a truly religious form of symbolism; the red pill represents spiritual faith. Specifically, when Neo eats the red pill, he is able to leave The Matrix, which is a metaphor for him mystically experiencing the presence of God.
In fact, I believe that most of the philosophical concepts found throughout The Matrix are purposely framed in religious beliefs. There are many examples of this, referencing both Christianity and Buddhism. For example, in terms of Christianity, Neo parallels the messiah or Jesus Christ, and Zion is another name for the holy city of Jerusalem. And let’s not forget the obvious Christian reference with the name Trinity. References to Buddhism also permeate the film, the most obvious of which is the notion that the physical world is an illusion.
In the final analysis, I believe the writers made a concerted effort to weave religious philosophies and symbolism into The Matrix, and that is probably the aspect that really catapulted the movie into one for the ages. The visual elements of the film, framed by deep-rooted philosophical concepts, truly make for an intriguing, mind-bending experience that is unlikely to be forgotten.