Writing a piece on The Matrix for our Rewind: 1999 in Film series was trickier than I first imagined. And not because I had nothing to say. Far from it. In the end after watching the movie twice, and digging deep into the behind the scenes footage, I was still kind of blown away by the technical brilliance of it. Words might not have done it justice. Well, not strictly so, I mean, the potential of our audiences reading the words detailing the ground-breaking special effects, the shift in technical cinema, is still pretty enticing.
But before I could put pen to paper, my five year-old daughter intervened unexpectedly. Now, like most ankle-biters of that phase in their lives, the inquisitiveness of their learning journey plays a huge part. And for anyone seeing The Matrix for the first time there is some guarantee of fresh spectacle in store for you. For a child, even more so perhaps. So when she saw the “15” on the cover she mentioned to me that she could not watch this. But as a question. As kids do. “So I can’t watch this?”. Being the great dad that I am, wanting my child to grow up know what was right and what was wrong, I couldn’t resist sitting down with the daughter to watch parts of The Matrix.
Of course, I misplaced my own knowledge that I would be subject to a hundred questions about what the hell was happening. Not her exact words. But if you have ever sat with a child to watch a film, any film, you’ll know the drill. I have in previous months, rather than let her watch the films, told her the stories of Dunkirk and On Body and Soul. Might sound nuts to you that a five year-old might not be equipped to handle those adult films, but how many kids do you know that would not be enthralled by the story of heroes in planes and on boats wanting to find their way home; or how two people find love through their dreams of deer?
The Matrix is a different fish, though. It confused many adults on its release in 1999. Explaining the plot, the visual narrative, the whys and wheres of these shades-donning figures in black, to a mere child is a head-scratcher in itself. So, as the film-inflicting father, I tried to think of a way to explain some of mechanics and story-structure of The Matrix to a five year-old. I accepted my own private challenge, and came up with the following. I won’t ramble on any further, but feel privileged as at the time of publishing my daughter has not seen the completed version of his yet. I’ll let you know if it teaches he about The Matrix. You might learn something too.