Reality is, by definition, a shared delusion. What we collectively choose to call the ‘real world’ is something that has been agreed upon by everyone else, all the mysteries of the universe in this situation are informally disregarded as falsehoods and so humanity settles on a plane that remains stable and for the most part understood. What great artworks often do is pull aside the curtains of this façade for a moment and let our brain’s wriggle in the idea that there is something more, or at least that things are not what they appear. Here are some of the most notable times mainstream cinema has allowed us to step outside of the illusion (Spoilers ahead).
The cinematic epic brought to us by the Wachowski’s tells a modern version of Plato’s cave. Here seemingly insignificant computer programmer Thomas Anderson spends his mundane life searching the internet for secrets when one day they find him. Awoken from his real body by Morpheus and his team, newly christened Neo discovers how he had been living in a computer simulation his entire life just like the majority of humanity. Not only is this film packed with style, ground-breaking action and quotable moments its philosophy continues to live on, becoming more plausible as we become more digital.
The Truman Show
Jim Carrey was a staple of comedy in the ‘90s but The Truman Show really changed things for everyone. Truman Burbank lives an idealised life in Seahaven Island with neighbours and friends who all have a vested interest in keeping him satiated. What he eventually discovers is that his life is simply entertainment for the masses. Truman is really the star of a long running reality show based entirely around his existence. This film is largely prophetic thanks to the rise of reality TV and its stars getting younger.
Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece is something that many found too confounding to comprehend, yet really its premise isn’t overly convoluted. In this world dreams are landscapes other people can enter, here your greatest fears and deepest secrets lurk in a physical environment. What makes the ideas here so revolutionary is the moment when the characters set about going to sleep while already inside a dream. With numerous layers of concentric reality, one could start to wonder if it was possible to wake up at any given moment from their living dream.
The Sixth Sense
With one of the biggest turns in movie history, this film has become infamous for its rug-pulling finale. Here child psychologist Malcolm Crowe comes across a remarkable child who has the uncanny ability to see the dead. After at first dismissing the boy (played unforgettably by Haley Joel Osment), Crowe begins to believe in the visions the troubled kid is seeing. After spending weeks with him, hoping to find a solution and ease the boy’s mind it is eventually revealed that Malcolm himself is not with the living. This film awakens audiences to the fact that we are often blind to our own existence, we take our reality for granted when really it would be wise to question it at least occasionally.