It has been said that there are no new ideas, only old ones told in a new voice. This thought can be applied in many areas of life and art including the art of filmmaking. There are examples everywhere of classic stories or themes expressed in new formats. Sometimes these duplicates are blatant as in "The Wiz" following "The Wizard of Oz," the numerous perspectives given to "Cinderella" and recreations such as the modern day telling of "Othello." Sometimes, though, these older themes are not as obvious, especially when they represent complex thoughts first uttered centuries ago. With the focus in recent years on a return to the classics, it should not be surprising to find allusions to our more famous Greek philosophers represented in popular films and shows. Andy and Larry Wachowski’s movie "The Matrix" shows a strong resemblance in its central theme to that of Plato’s "The Allegory of the Cave."
In "The Allegory of the Cave," Plato sets forth the idea that mankind is only living in an illusion of life, that the reality is beyond the scope of our own senses and can only be reached through the intellect. In the dialogue Plato presents, Socrates explains "here they [human beings] have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads." In this vision, Socrates explains that the human beings are watching a giant screen on which marionettes and other things dance, but the humans can only see the shadows of these moving things. The actual colors and nature of these things cannot be perceived from such a perspective, but not having known anything else, Socrates argues...
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...Plato was forced to, providing plenty of high-tech computer wizardry to capture the attention of the short attention spans typically encountered in the modern day, “The Matrix” is able to reach a much wider audience in today’s world than Plato would. Perhaps this fact, more than anything else, helps to illustrate Plato’s theory even more than the movie itself, when people enter a dark cavern to watch events that are not real take place on a screen in front of them and yet still neglect to find the truths in their own lives.
Kreis, Steven. “Plate: The Allegory of the Cave.” May 13, 2004. The History Guide. December 11, 2005.
The Matrix. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Gloria Foster. Warner Brothers, 1999.
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