Zachary Stewart: LGBT+ History Month – Art: Behind the Lens – The Wachowskis
Throughout this year’s LGBT+ History Month, Shepherd & Wedderburn has produced a series of articles to celebrate LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to the production of film and cinema from ‘behind the lens’. The first article, written by Michelle Clement, focussed on the aesthetically pleasing and emotionally charged films of Luca Guadagnini, such as Call Me By Your Name. The second, written by Olivia Greener, discussed Angela Robinson’s contribution towards making the film TV industry more inclusive, with shows such as the D.E.B.S and The L Word. Zachary Stewart has written the final article on the visionary sister duo behind The Matrix, the Wachowskis.
Lana and Lilly Wachowski are two of the most visionary and inventive filmmakers of the 20th/21st century. Bursting onto the film scene in 1999 with the ground-breaking science fiction action film, The Matrix, the Wachowskis were at the forefront of revolutionising special effects in film and introduced a new-era of science-fiction storytelling.
When younger, the Wachowskis were obsessed with science-fiction, comics and philosophy – which has come to influence much of their storytelling and filmmaking. This enthusiasm is evident in The Matrix, as they combine often complex philosophical themes, such as Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” illusionary argument and Plato’s allegory of the cave, with comic-style, slow-motion action. The Matrix, the Wachowskis’ first feature-length film, explored the concept of a simulated reality, in which humans are kept trapped in a virtual world by artificial intelligence.
The Matrix (now part of a quadrilogy) is regarded as a ground-breaking achievement in special effects, action choreography, and philosophical storytelling. It dominated all the visual-effect, film and sound editing categories at the 2000 Academy Awards, and also picked up ‘Best Science Fiction Film’ and ‘Best Director’ awards for The Wachowskis at the 2000 Saturn Awards, which specifically honours the best science fiction, fantasy and horror films and TV shows.
The Wachowskis went on to create notable films such as psychological thriller The Invasion, Speed Racer, based on a Japanese anime series of the same name (which is now considered a cult classic) and they wrote and produced V for Vendetta, starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. The duo returned to science-fiction with the 2012 film Cloud Atlas. Based on the science fiction epic by David Mitchell, the film featured an ensemble cast, including Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent, who play multiple characters between 1849 and the year 2321. The film explored the composite themes of fate, reincarnation and interconnectedness, telling six contrasting stories set in different time periods that were all connected by a single thread.
The Wachowskis also created and directed the Netflix Original Series, Sense8. Again, the series, which ran for two seasons between 2015 to 2018, explored philosophical and psychological themes as it followed eight strangers who found themselves psychically connected. The show’s diverse cast included several LGBT+ characters and the series received commendation for its authenticity, sensitivity and exploration of LGBT+ themes, identities and relationships.
Impact on the LGBT+ community
The Wachowskis, both transgender women, have been vocal advocates for the LGBT+ community throughout their long careers. Their work continues to push boundaries in exploring themes of identity, sexuality and gender, and they are widely praised for depicting diverse and marginalised communities in their TV shows and films.
The Wachowskis are two of the most high-profile transgender individuals in the entertainment industry and their coming out is viewed as a significant moment for the trans community, as they are committed to increasing visibility and awareness of trans issues. Their work is continually praised for its emphasis on representation and visibility of marginalised communities, while also pushing boundaries in storytelling, the utilisation of cutting edge visual techniques and the creation of striking and immersive cinematic experiences. The Wachowskis represent a willingness to take risks as they refuse to hold back from exploring experimental cinematic techniques, while also standing as advocates from the marginalised trans community, of which they are proudly a part. Their body of work is daring, bold and innovative and has help redefine what is possible in TV and film today.
Zachary Stewart is a trainee at Shepherd and Wedderburn