What the Bleep Do We Know!?Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/11/05 08:05:14
There are two minor problems with “What the #$*! Do We Know:” it’s bad science and it’s a bad movie.First, the movie as a movie. It’s a documentary, but it’s a horrible one, loaded with laughable dramatizations added in with carelessness. In this running story designed to illustrate the movie‘s many points, Marlee Matlin stars as a manic depressive photographer, or something, who encounters every notion being discussed by the film’s documentary side. It’s all handled so ridiculously: a cutesy trip to a neighborhood basketball court (complete with wise-beyond-his-years child) becomes a lesson in the “infinite possibilities” of quantum physics and the universe at large; a scene in which she discovers how a Buddhist monk blessed a dam and therefore changed the very shape of the water’s molecules informs us on how positive thinking can affect reality; a job photographing a wedding becomes an excuse to examine addictions, emotions, and stimuli; a New Age-y roommate shows up to help bounce off all those Deep Thoughts. (“Tadpoles! Tadpoles is a winner!!” Sorry, where was I? Ah, yes, the movie. Ahem.)
The film credits Mark Vicente, Betsy Chasse, and William Arntz as co-directors, so I’m not sure who deserves the blame for just how amateurish and ridiculous these fictionalized portions came off. These scenes are clumsy, lame, and, most of all, endlessly irritating.
As are the documentary scenes, which tire the viewer too quickly by repeating the same notions over and over and over again. “What the #$*!” (aka “What the Bleep…”) claims to intend to discuss quantum physics in such a way that makes it easy for the layman to understand. But the filmmakers mistake clarification with dumbing down; points are repeated long after they’ve been clarified, possibly only to ensure that even the dumbest viewer understands. Which is misguided at best and condescending at worst. (Sadly, many of the movie’s themes, including the old “what is reality?” question, go handled far better in the “Matrix” movies - and when Keanu’s doing a better job explaining the nature of sensory input than you are, you’re in big trouble, my friend.)
Worse still, the movie makes no effort to identify any of its interviewees until the whole thing’s over, leaving the audience wondering who these people are and why they are experts on quantum physics. And that brings us to the movie as science: it’s bunk. Very few of the interviewees are actual scientists, and of the ones that are, one turns out to be a chiropractor, while another was a poor guy who was asked to come in, talk to the camera about the film’s problematic science (which he shot down), only to have his interview re-edited into an agreement of the movie’s ideas. Oops.
So who are the rest? Well, the directors themselves are all members of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, which sounds as culty/New Age-y as it actually is. And many of their interviewees are members and/or leaders of this movement, including JZ Knight, a self-proclaimed psychic who claims to be channeling Ramtha himself, lucky us. (Ramtha, by the way, is a 35,000 year old conqueror from Atlantis. In case you were wondering.)
The movie then takes most of its early notions regarding quantum physics and abandons them as we instead push on into Ramtha ideas. There’s an clumsily heavy dose of discussion on the nature of addiction - to drugs, to food, to sex - and one gets the notion that the Ramtha School exists, in part, at least, as a New Age 12-step deal. It all seems to work here as bait: “What, you’re addicted to something? Come on in! Ramtha can help! Join us! Join us!!” Although, please remember, if anyone asks you to cut off your own testicles, kindly decline the offer.
But I digress. The filmmakers have tried to defend their actions here by saying that the movie never intended to pass off such people as “experts,” that the movie was meant to be just a bunch of ordinary folks discussing metaphysics. But in hiding names, the movie becomes a desperate lie. The viewer, thinking of the conventions of the documentary format, would naturally assume these people are experts… and the filmmakers know it.Perhaps tuning into a movie about the beliefs of the Ramtha School might help create some discussion about actual quantum physics, but it’s doubtful. The ideas it brings up are too loaded with inaccuracies and biased nonsense that the only good it can do is force someone to head to the library and find a book that contains a few more facts. Besides, how can one feel good about a religion when the only way that religion can spread its word is through deception? “What the #$*!” lies to us from the beginning, if not about its science, then at least about its intent. What the #$*!, indeed.
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