Josef Rusnak’s The Thirteenth Floor

Douglas Hall: How can you love me? I’m not even real. You can’t fall in love with a dream.

Fresh off our study of Ubik last week and the class discussion we had revolving around the idea of being “real,” it was a challenge to follow what was real and what wasn’t in the film, The Thirteenth Floor. There were such drastic shifts in what time period the film was in, along with the characters and whether they were being controlled by the actual person or the virtual reality figures. Some concepts in the film have been discussed at length this semester in regards to other texts and films we’ve worked with. When Douglas Hall first enters the virtual world to take the place of John Ferguson, I immediately thought of Avatar and how Jake Sully first experiences his new body in his Na’vi avatar body. The way Hall reacts as John Ferguson was different from Jake. Jake was happy to be in a new body because of his confinement to a wheelchair, so essentially he was being given a fresh start. Hall was more engaged in the new world he was in, a completely different time period from the one he came from. The gap in decades between the 1930’s and 1990’s creates this disparity that we see in Hall’s reaction to his temporary body as Ferguson. Obviously there are flaws in their system, as the real John Ferguson doesn’t remember where he is once the timed simulation is over for Hall.

Douglas Hall: These people are real. They are as real as you and me.
Jason Whitney: Yeah, that’s because…we designed them that way,Doug. I mean, but..In the end, they’re just a bunch of electronic circuits.

Today’s society exemplifies the perceptions of how unreliable our reality really is. The film seems to blame computing technologies as the reason for people in society losing sight of their reality. In the year 2012, our world is greatly affected by technologies to the point where people are indeed losing perceptions of their reality. Their realities are in fact becoming a part of the technology, whether it is a person not being able to leave the house without their cellular device or someone who can’t have their morning coffee without logging on to Facebook. Some people are so lost in what reality is that they live their life through social networking. It can be argued that the United States has felt the negative impacts of technology, from obesity rates being at an all-time high to unemployment rising due to lack of jobs. Reality as we know it has changed and it isn’t too farfetched to suggest that we may be heading down a road where we can simulate our bodies and experience life through a new body.

The ending of the film is where things get choppy. The characters we dealt with throughout the film are suddenly taken over by others. Jerry Ashton takes the place of Douglas Hall’s associate while Jane Fuller’s boyfriend, David, takes over Hall’s body. It’s clear that David was jealous of Jane’s fascination with Hall so his jealousy has caused him to exact his revenge. I just have a hard time grasping which world Hall and Fuller are originally from and what the true purpose of the VR simulation system was. Our final scene has Douglas and Jane in the year 2024. Is it really 2024 or is it just another simulation? And why does the film end the way it does? We don’t hear what Jane is talking to Douglas about following the introduction to Jane’s real father, who looks very similar to Hannon Fuller. The director ends the movie similar to a computer monitor turning off, perhaps symbolizing the end of the VR simulation Jane was trying to shut down from the beginning. So does that mean that their project has indeed finished and the year 2024 is only reality left? This is one of those films where you are left with more unanswered questions than anything else.

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