Posted by Aaron West, 9/21/04
What the Bleep do we Know?
Directed by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vicente
Starring Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix
Running Time: 111 minutes
What is a good film anyway? Is it merely a momentary distraction from our lives, something that completely suspends us from reality and stimulates our emotions? Or is it supposed to have a more significant impact on us? Is it supposed to teach us something or perhaps force us to reevaluate how we live our lives? The definition of a good film varies from person to person based on their tastes, which is why the evaluation of film is so subjective, and extremely difficult to predict a reaction for everyone. Many people are quite comfortable in their lives, and would rather not have their harmony interrupted, while other people do not find profound thought entertaining, but rather boring. What the Bleep Do We Know? is not a film for that type of person, but instead for people who are receptive to new ideas; people who are interested in learning things about themselves and their nature. These people are called "Culture Creatives" and this is for them.
What the Bleep? is an exploration through our world with its basis in quantum mechanics, but it covers other erudite topics, including human biology, psychology, and of course spirituality. There are several talking head interviews with illustrious authors, professors and teachers, all of whom share their insights into their particular field, as well as their world view and what motivates them. They also serve as a primer into the world of quantum mechanics, which is exemplified by actors in real world situations, with Marlee Matlin as the "main character."
What the Bleep is fascinating because a lot of the information it presents is so unreal, so unbelievable, yet for the most part based on solid research and theory. That doesn't mean it's all true. The movie doesn't claim to be the ultimate authority, and doesn't provide any ultimate answers. It does effectively shake up the knowledge that we take for granted, beginning with what we see with our own eyes. One example it uses early on is that when the Spaniards first approached modern day Mexico, the natives were unable to physically see the ships with their own eyes, because ships were such a foreign concept to them that their brains did not accept what was really there.
The expert interviews are the meat of the film, plus they're also always the most insightful and often the most entertaining element. Most of the interviewees are college professors at some esteemed university, and most have published books in their field of study. They range from physicists, to neurologists, to biologists and they all bring a unique perspective into the movie. Their quirky personalities also add color to the picture. Take Fred Wolf, one of the foremost physicists on the planet, for example. He looks like the prototypical science geek with the runway baldspot, surrounded by stark white frizzy hair, glasses, plus the beard and mustache. His demeanor, however, is hardly as bland as the stereotype. He carries himself with a certain confidence and sense of humor, and talks about his theories with such childish glee that you can't help but be drawn to him. While not all the scientists are as energetic as he is, they are all comfortable with their subject, and they all share a similar sense of exuberance when discussing their theories.
Marlee Matlin is the key "character" in the film, if you can even call her that. While there is a limited running narrative, there isn't much of a plot. Matlin's life is visual canvas that serves as a demonstration for many of the ideas presented in the film. Matlin is a fine actress, with a successful career and an Oscar to boot, but in this film she tends to overact. Perhaps she does so in order to deliver a more vibrant example, but it comes off as melodramatic, bland, and more than a little annoying. The directors make it worse by repeating certain scenes of hers throughout the movie, sometimes from different perspectives in order to revisit an idea, but in reality they just remind us of something that annoyed us before. Instead of helping her scenes, Matlin often hurts them, and her presence is easily the worst aspect of the film. A shame, indeed.
Everything comes together during certain sequences. especially the one that teaches about the hypothalamus. While the visual example is still annoying at times even here, everything does flow together much stronger. The visual examples complement the theme rather than detract from it, as several animated emoticons hammer the idea home with some well-placed humor.
While this project may be too ambitious for its less than 2 hours running time, it does achieve the goal it sets for itself. It does make us re-evaluate what we already know and understand, welcome new ideas, and open our minds to deeper subjects that we might otherwise be unaware. The passion of scientists, specialists and spiritual authorities (yes, even Ramtha) bring to life the ideals and effectively transfer that same passion to the audience, albeit in a smaller dose. While this movie's core audience will adore the film, people who are a little more grounded might reject it, or worse, find themselves bored. I do feel that most intelligent human beings will find it fulfilling to some degree, but that all depends on them. Of course, what the bleep do I know?
© Aaron West, 21st September, 2004