What the bleep do we know?

Director: Mark Vicente, Betsy Chasse and William Arntz

U.S.A.| 2004. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 108 min.

A sleeper hit in America, this hybrid movie mixes narrative live-action, animation and documentary-style interviews against a backdrop of science and spirituality. Marlee Matlin (yes, the Oscar-winner from Children of a Lesser God) plays Amanda, a troubled and insecure photographer who goes through a rabbit hole-like experience—à la Alice in Wonderland—during which she begins to question her destiny and the control she has over it. But the real purpose of this ‘story’ is to illustrate the big ideas that are discussed in documentary-style interviews with a fascinating array of legitimate scientists, spiritualists and at least one joker. The scientists talk a lot about the mind-boggling implications of quantum physics, describing a world of seemingly infinite possibilities in which rigid suppositions about the universe suddenly seem very shaky. The directors (Mark Vicente, Betsy Chasse and William Arntz) make a plausible transition from quantum mechanics to cognitive therapy, suggesting that, just as quantum mechanics states that phenomena are always transformed by observation, so can our perception of reality be changed. The claim that ‘we are reality-creating machines’ is fair enough, but it comes across as more self-help philosophy than science. The film doesn’t make a case for any brand of spiritualism or meditation, but the leap from scientific speculation into hazy spiritual philosophising is somewhat suspect, even if it is coming from someone like scientist and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra. More puzzling than worrying is that one of the most articulate and persuasive interviewees (a pleasant enough middle-aged woman) is identified in the end credits as Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old ‘mystic, philosopher, master teacher and hierophant who channels his voice through the body of an American woman named J.Z. Knight.’ There’s plenty of food for thought in What the Bleep, and more can be found on the web-site (www.whatthebleep.com).

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