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What the #$*! Do We Know!?

Directed by William Arntz Betsy Chasse Mark Vicente
Written by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse & Matthew Hoffman

What the #$*! Do We Know!? is an interesting concept. The filmmakers take a documentary made up of interviews with a collection of scientists, mystics and scholars talking about subjects like quantum physics and the nature of reality, and in an effort to make them accessible to the public, the subjects are illustrated by scenes from the life of Amanda, a recently divorced photographer, as she deals with the current state of her life.

Unfortunately, the incongruity between the two formats makes the film unbearable at times. The dramatizations with Amanda are so amateurishly put together that they are difficult to sit through because I was much more intrigued by what the interviewees had to say. There wasn’t any characterization of the people who popped in and out of Amanda’s life. They were one-dimensional archetypes: the goofy, free-spirited young woman who inexplicably lives with Amanda, or the overly precocious and annoying young boy on the basketball court who has all the answers.

Another distraction was some of the computer animation scenes, which had little gelatinous creatures that represented thoughts, emotions and feeling. The film began to take on the appearance of a high school health film. It wasn’t too bad at first, but the film’s pacing came to a standstill when dealing with lust. A red cartoon blob leapt off a man and chased a female red cartoon blob around a woman’s leg. Then it broke into a song and appeared in its own version of Robert Palmer’s video for “Addicted to Love.” It made we wish I was in a reality where the filmmakers had made a better movie.

There’s a bit of a controversy in regards to the information that is presented by the aforementioned talking heads; some people are saying that their comments aren’t scientifically accurate, including interviewee David Albert. According to an article in Popular Science, Albert, a Columbia University Philosophy Professor says that he explained to the filmmakers that quantum mechanics has no bearing on consciousness or spirituality yet he feels that his comments were edited to the contrary.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the filmmakers are involved with The Ramtha School of Enlightment. Ramtha is a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit from the lost continent of Atlantis and one of the Ascended Masters channeled by JZ Knight, who appears in the film. The film has been charged with being propaganda for the RSE and there are complaints that the filmmakers don’t disclose their connections to the group.

One aspect that feeds into the conspiracy theorists’ arguments is that all the interview subjects aren’t identified until the end of the film. The lack of identification was odd at first, but I think the filmmakers wanted to present the topics of discussion to the viewer at face value, since some admittedly have dubious occupations and affiliations. If I had known about Ramtha or the chiropractor, I would have had a biased opinion before I heard them speak, but someone’s occupation has nothing to do with the truth as they see it. I know many people who follow the teachings of a carpenter and he had no great scientific background.

And what is science but current, majority-held views of how things work? They aren’t universal truths. Just last year before the 17th International Conference of General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Stephen Hawking stated that he was wrong about an assertion he made 30 years ago regarding black holes, and there are still people in this country fighting over the theory of evolution. When we look at history, we can see that mankind was wrong about many things in their view of the way the universe works. Who is to say that in 50, 100 or 1,000 years from now future scientists won’t look back at 2005 the same way?

I’m not saying that the interviewees had the answers, but they do present interesting possibilities that lead the viewer to ask questions. As far as the detractors go, they do make valid points, but I always question people who are so adamant about what is right and wrong about questions and answers that no one can ever know for certain. After all, even a broken clock gives the correct time twice a day

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Anyone who watches the film will at least spend a few minutes pondering life in a way they normally wouldn’t, and for that, the film deserves some credit. It’s just too bad the film as whole is so flawed, but then that may only be my reality of it.

I was only provided a copy of the film, so I can’t comment on any of the DVD extras.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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