The Matrix

One of the best products of contemporary culture that deals with this question is the 1999 science fiction film, The Matrix. In the film, the protagonist Thomas Anderson aka Neo of the film has this existential search and yearning to find out what the truth is about the world that he lives in, and what the purpose of his life is. This question leads him on a journey to encounter those who have been living outside the world that he knew, outside the Matrix.


The taglines for this film also have an unparalleled depth to them in contemporary culture: Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? What if you couldn’t awaken? How would you know the difference between dream and reality?


The combination of these questions all point to the same existential question: What is the purpose of our life? In our attempt to answer this, let us return to the storyline of this film where we see that:

  • At each step, more of the reality of his existence is steadily revealed to him, as deemed appropriate by his guide.
  • At each step, he is offered the chance to accept what has been revealed to him or to reject it.
  • At each step, he struggles to internalise the reality that has been revealed to him.
  • At each step, he has to ‘free his mind’ to release it from all acquired thought patterns that he was conditioned to in captivity.
  • At each step, he gets closer and closer to finding out the truth.


The climax of the film comes at the very end when Neo dies for a moment but revives again. However, after this revival, his eyes were opened to the reality of the Matrix that he was in, represented by moving green letters and numbers to imply that it was all false. He finally reached this point of enlightenment, this ‘aha’ moment that completely changes the way he reacts to the world of the Matrix, as represented by stopping bullets mid-flight. However, this ‘aha’ moment did not come easily nor simply but through many adventures with total self-regard and finally being killed for the sake of this very question. This was the fervour and intensity of his desire to answer his existential question and this was precisely the drive that allowed him to finally receive his answer. This is also the fervour that we should fire up in our souls in search for our own answer.


Wachowski, Larry, dir. 1999. The Matrix. Apple TV. (Wachowski 1999)