This movie was released in theaters about the same time as the Matrix.
It deals with similar themes, namely that the world we live in is not "real."
The Thirteenth Floor proposes that the world we know is a virtual simulation,
a time period programmed by computer scientists in the year 2024.
Three men, ostensibly in 1999, create a virtual playground of 1937 Los Angeles.
One of the characters, Hannon Fuller, enters the virtual realm to have sex with
young girls. He gets more than he bargained for though, when he discovers that
his own world, 1999, is also a simulation. Fuller is murdered to prevent him from
sharing his knowledge. Douglas Hall, Fuller's close friend and associate, is left
to figure out what happened.
The Thirteenth Floor presents a confusing mix of events and ideas. While not a
great movie, it is highly reflective of societal concerns. The computer generated
"people" end up having "souls"-something not predicted by the programmers. Many
people today are concerned about where to draw the line between technology and humans,
or where to stop technology because they are afraid it will challenge humanity. Cloning,
replacement of deteriorated organs with synthetic counterparts, and computer programs
that have the ability to "learn" are just a few debated and/or feared technological
advances being realized today. While the idea of a soul may be questionable, it serves
to elicit the question: What will be the difference, or will there be a difference, in
the future between what we now think of as humans, and human creations?
When a character enters the virtual world, his/her mind is downloaded into a virtual
character's mind. This affects the virtual character in that (s)he experiences periods of
blackouts while being "possessed." It is interesting to notice that the possessed/virtual
character often does "bad" things, or things he would not do in his own world-has sex with
many different young women (Fuller), viciously murders people (the man who downloads into Hall),
has an affair/falls in love with a man who is a nicer version of her husband (Jane). Since
the virtual being was not really himself, he cannot be blamed for his actions. That is an
interesting, although not too plausible, explanation for the apparently senseless, random,
"out of character" detrimental acts people commit that seem to be on the rise in today's society.
The emphasis on how collective memory will be handled, stored, or destroyed peaks as people's
souls/minds leap from one reality to another in The Thirteenth Floor. If a character downloads
into his virtual counterpart and is killed, the virtual person's mind is forced into the
person that was inhabiting him. Knowledge is shared between the virtual and "real" person
through residual memory. It may also be destroyed when one dies in the virtual world. The
movie presented both a negative and a positive view of how collective memory would
function-negatively in the case of 1937 Ashton leapfrogging into 1999 and replacing a
good man with an evil, and positively when Douglas Hall is forced into the future, replacing a
power hungry, murderous fellow.
We leave with one question: Did Jane, the only significant female character, mastermind the
whole situation in order to kill her husband and get the virtual man, the man of her dreams?