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What the Bleep Do We Know!? Review Essay


Introduction

In April 2004, the film industry was immersed in a new round of criticism and applause in equal measure as a new, low budget film was released to the public. The film was both confounding and challenging to film critiques who were trying to classify it into the conventional genres in the industry.

This is evidenced by the different classifications that are given this film by the various critiques in this field. According to Margaret (3), the film is classified as a documentary, a drama and a spiritually oriented genre of film. Others classify it as a science fiction and fantasy.

This film is a combination of documentary oriented interviews and computer generated graphics, a combination that is used by the producers to come up with a unique form of film. The film uses narratives a lot, and this style is used to depict the spiritual link between quantum physics and the consciousness of the human being (Wertheim 15).

The plot of the film is as eccentric as the title suggests. The plot involves the story of a photographer who is deaf but has her other senses intact, if not a bit heightened. The main character experiences several hurdles in her life, both emotional and existential in nature.

This character, through her experiences, concludes that both individual and group consciousness in human society has the potential to shape the material world (Wertheim 16). In a nutshell, it can be argued that the theme in the movie is the connection between consciousness and quantum physics.

William Arntz is the man who was behind the production of this movie (Skeptical 9). He was assisted by Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente, and all of them were scholars at the Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (Darrah 9).

Given the scepticism that was the movie was accorded by major theatre houses in the country, the producers had to come up with ingenious ideas to market their production. This they did through the adoption of viral marketing techniques, a technique that was so successful to the extent of convincing the theatre houses to take it over.

What The Bleep Do We Know? Has not being with its fair share of negative and positive criticism. Positivists regard it as a refreshing departure from the normal and dreary science fiction films that have been produced before.

On the other side, negative criticism is of the view that the movie is nothing more but a misrepresentation of science. They are of the view that the movie is full of embarrassing scenes of pseudoscience, and they go as far as to refer to it as a perfect embodiment of quantum mysticism (Baccil 8).

This paper is going to address this movie in detail. The subsequent parts of this paper will be dedicated to an analysis, interpretation and evaluation of the movie. The author is also going to look at the movie’s synopsis, reviews and criticisms that touch on the movie among other things.

The Bleep: The Storyline

As earlier indicated in this paper, the story revolves around the deaf photographer, Amanda. This part is played by Marlee Matlin, who goes through an experience that is not so unlike that of the fantasy Alice in Wonderland (Darrah 4).

Amanda is leading the normal and dreary life that is expected of all those individuals in the society who have defects but are scared of confronting them. However, in this movie, her life change and begins to unfold, bringing to fore the uncertain and hitherto unexplored sphere of quantum field (Skeptical 4).

According to the authors of this film, the quantum realm can be conceptualized as that concealed behind what humans take as their normal and waking reality of the world around them (Baccil 8).

Amanda’s world is thrown into a swirl of chaotic happenstances, and this is vividly revealed through her encounters with the various subjects that she comes across. The subjects reveal to her deep seated and concealed wealth of knowledge that she was hitherto unaware of.

The story revolves around the doubts that this character has as far as what she had always taken as facts in her life is concerned. She is plagued by doubts and confusion about what she has always taken to be the reality in her life (Hambling 2).

As all other heroes and heroines in other fantasies, Amanda conquers her fears at the end of the movie. She learns how to relax and adapt into her new experiences.

She amasses a great deal of knowledge from this experience, in addition to accessing the great secrets that have been hidden from the naked eye of the mere mortal for ages (Kehr 19). In the course of the movie, Amanda is transforms from a mere deaf woman at the mercies of her destiny. She ends up as the controller of her destiny, and the life she leads changes drastically.

It was earlier mentioned that this movie used a combination of interviews and documentary like features. The experiences of Amanda were complemented by interviews that were conducted on fourteen top-notch scientists from various fields together with mystics, giving the movie a surreal touch.

The producers skilfully interweave the interviews in a filmic dance together with the experiences of Amanda (Elizabeth 9). The interviews with the different key informers merge into each other, rendering the production a discernible interconnectedness, further emphasizing the movies theme of interlink between different aspects of the real world.

The interviewees are depicted in the movie as outsiders to the story, despite the obvious central role that they play in developing the storyline. It is through these participants that the producers are able to pose the fundamental question of the link between science and religion in the society.

Throughout the story, it is revealed that there is no difference between science and religion. This is given the fact that both of them are narratives and manifestations of the same phenomena, phenomena that are beyond the comprehension of the mere mortals (Huston 3).

The film uses animation and graphics to depict the random knowledge that has been unearthed by human using modern science in contemporary society. The deeper and inner functionalities of the human brain are also explored in detail in this movie (Kuttner & Rosenblum 14). The movie also introduces the viewer to the realm of the tiniest and most basic depiction of human consciousness, that of the tiny cell.

The movie is full of visuals and other forms of sensual stimulations that enable it to pass such a fictitious message in a surreal fashion. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the producers were confident with their work to the extent of bluffing the theatre houses and doing their own marketing when no one in the movie industry had trust on them.

What The Bleep Do We Know!? Thematic Analysis

This movie was produced in Portland city within the state of Oregon in the United States of America. One of the major themes is the representation of the physical universe as it is known to the human and the life that exists within this universe (Gregory 8). The universe and the human life therein are linked to the neuroscience within the human brain and the realm of quantum physics (Wilson 4).

According to this film, the universe can be conceptualized as the construction of the human thought and notions. This is as opposed to the conventional view of the universe being the product of substance and elements that randomly exist out there (Wilson 4).

In quantum physics, scientists hypothesize that there is an “empty space” in the universe. This movie agrees with the scientists as far as the existence of the so called empty space is concerned. However, it contends that the empty space is not that empty, it is only the human mind that is unable to see beyond the emptiness.

Scientists in the physical realm also hypothesize that matter is solid (Wilson 5). However, this movie contradicts this position. It is of the view that electrons always sneak in and out of existence. It is beyond the human knowledge to know where these electrons sneak to when they do.

This movie is also of the view that the beliefs that one holds regarding their identity and what is real and unreal is determined by factors from within the individual, as opposed to factors from without. They arise from “oneself” and the realities that the individual holds within themselves (Gregory 8).

The movie goes further to assert that the brain does affect the physiological reaction that humans express towards emotion. This is through the peptides that are produced in the brain (Kuttner & Rosenblum 15).

The producers of the film use the interviewees conspicuously to bring out these themes. This is given the fact that these interviewees usually try to interpret the root cause and meaning of the experiences of the main character. This development goes further to assert the main theme of this film.

This is the idea that every human being is responsible for the creation of their own identity, meaning that this identity is not random or without the human being (Wertheim 16).

Criticisms of the Movie

This movie was received with a mixture of reactions by players in the film and entertainment field in general. Publishers Weekly consider this movie to be one of the major hits in the industry in the year 2004 (Russell 3). A combination of aggressive and strategic marketing strategies retained the film in major theatre houses for the whole of that year.

According to market analysts, the movie was able to hit the $10 million mark in sales in a span of one year (Wertheim 15). This, according to analysts, was a good performance considering the fact that the movie was nothing more but just a low budget production.

Critics leaning on the positivist side were of the view that the success that was recorded by the movie was part of a wider phenomenon in the society. They were of the view that many people in contemporary society are seeking connections with their spiritual selves. With this movie, they have a wide selection to choose from now. In a nutshell, these people are of the view that this movie is enriching spiritually.

But perhaps the most significant form of criticism that this movie has received is negative in nature. A case in point is the 74 reviews on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes. According to this site, the movie scored a meagre 4.6 points out of the possible 10 (Kehr 21). It was thus labelled as “rotten”, a tag that is not so appealing considering the amount of time and resources that the producers put into the production.

In an article in the New York Times, Kehr (20) gave one of the most scathing yet veiled attacks on this film. According to him, the films depiction of the shift from quantum mechanics to cognitive therapy is acceptable and justified to some extent (Kehr 20). But he is quick to observe that this is as far as the justification could go.

The shift that followed, the one from cognitive therapy into spiritual beliefs was not as skilfully executed. There is no coherence between the justifications that is given for this leap, with the movie talking of subatomic particles and alternative universes (Kehr 19). All of these, Kehr argues, for the sole purpose of making the main character accept herself.

Scientists have also not been left behind in trashing this movie. They describe the whole thing and their premises as nothing more than glorified pseudoscience, a make believe production that is just a visual trick to the viewers.

Erdik (18) especially attacks the movies assertion that we create our own reality. The producers use the theory of quantum physics to support this assertion described by Erdik as outrageous and basic at the same time (20).

He is of the view that the producers have mixed up the theory of quantum physics with interpretation of the same, and they have gotten it all wrong. The assertions of the movie are unscientific, given the fact that they are not falsifiable. In other words, they cannot be tested to prove whether they are true or not (Harvey 10).

According to Rebekah (8), the movie engages in a defeatist argument with itself. The producers allude to the fact that quantum physics cannot be explained. But they go ahead to do exactly that; explain what they have argued cannot be explained (Bruce 3).

Bodew (5) and Carayannis (9) contend with the fact that thoughts are as powerful as the movie argues. They give the example of Masura Emoto, the character that is played by the normally engaging actress Armin Shimerman (Carayannis 7). The producers use this character to show that the thoughts of the human can influence the crystallization process of water.

Emoto puts water into bottles, and then labels them accordingly. The water crystallises in accordance with the thought expressed in the taped message. The character then quips that “if thoughts can do that to water [crystallise it accordingly]………. (it can) do much more to you (as the thinker)” (Bodew 4).

According to Skeptical (6), there are other assumptions that are made by the movie and which are either untrue or cannot be supported by enough evidence in the real world. This is despite the fact that the movie is trying to discount the reality of the world as we know it today. According to Skeptical (9), the producers should not use their stand on reality in contemporary world to purvey half truths and unsubstantiated information.

One of the claims in the movie that Skeptical (9) contends with is a historical fact having to do with one of the earliest explorers in the world, Alexander Columbus. The movie asserts that when this explorer reached the West Indies, the natives of the land could not see his ships (Skeptical 8).

The movie insists that the natives could have seen objects unknown to them, but they literally did not see the ships. This is given the fact that they have never seen a ship before in their lives. As such, the ships were not part and parcel of their reality (Skeptical 8).

If this assertion was a fable, it could have been excused, and the discerning viewer and other critiques would have let it slip from their scrutiny. However, according to Russell (4), the movie blatantly masquerades this as a fact. This notion, according to Darrah (3), is just too flimsy to be taken seriously.

Even if the natives could not literally see the ships, can this fact be verified by anyone, either through research or otherwise? This flimsiness makes it appear as though the producers cooked this kind of information up. This further dents the credibility of the film.

Another fact that many critics in the industry contend with is the so called Maharishi Effect in the movie (Baccil 8). This was brought about in the movie by interviews with John Hagelin, a scholar at Maharishi University (Baccil 7). This scholar was of the view that transcendental meditation is effective in reducing the rate of crime in the society.

They support their argument by claiming that they placed more than 4000 residents of Washington D.C on this therapy for a period of time. Within two months, the rate of violent crime in the city, according to Hagelin, has dropped drastically. This was in the year 1993, and this is the same year that Wilson (4) claims a lot of crime was committed in New York, contradicting the assertions of the movie.

According to Bodew (3), there were many challenges that faced the experiment performed by this scholar in New York, challenges that reduce the credence of his assertions.

One of the challenges is the fact that the murder rate in this city increased during this period that Hagelin claims it has reduced. According to this scholar and the report that he wrote when he conducted the research, the rate of crime reduced by 18% (Bodew 5).

However, in the film, he states that this crime dropped by 25%. The discrepancy between the two figures does little to increase the credibility of the film. In fact, it raises questions as to why the scholar contradicted themselves in the film. Was it deliberate or could it be that they were misquoted by the producers of the film?

Another contention that this claim by Hagelin raises is; the rate of crime in the city reduced as compared to what? (Harvey 9). The film claims to be scientific, but this assertion is not scientific at all. Another question is, how Hagelin did knew the rate of crime as it would have been without the transcendental meditation (Erdik 18).

Hagelin’s experiment is further discredited when the scientific team that was scrutinising the experiment is analysed. The scientific team was referred in the report as an independent scientific review board (Rebekah 8). But nothing can be further from the truth, given the fact that they were all members of the maharishi movement (Rebekah 9).

This development further confirms the claims of the critics to the effect that this movie is nothing more but a pseudoscience (Erdik 19). This is given the fact that the reviewers were not independent. To complicate matters further, this experiment has not yet been replicated anywhere by an independent researcher (Bodew 4).

The So Called “Pert Scam”

Another thing about the movie that has attracted a lot of controversy is the neuro-peptides (Darrah 9). This segment deals with the way the peptides are created in the human brain, together with how the same affects other parts of the human anatomy (Darrah 9). According to this movie, this is how the brain makes reality that is presented and taken as true by the person.

This assumption, according to Bodew (9), does not really reflect the assertions made by Candace Pert in the book Molecules of Emotion. This is despite the fact that this film is trying very hard to depict this book in their reality of the world assertions.

According to critics, even if the movie was able to copy the ideas of this book, the credence will not have been raised a bit. This is given the fact that Candace has been accused by many people in the scientific field as having made several dubious claims in the past (Erdik 19). She continues to make these claims in the film, where she makes an appearance as an interviewee.

Production of the Movie

As earlier indicated, the film was shot at Portland, Oregon. It includes a more than four hundred visual effects and scenes (Hambling 5). According to Hambling (5), this is a very large content for such a movie that is independent and produced on a low budget.

This movie faced a lot of challenges during production. One of the challenges had to do with financial constraints during the production phase. This challenge called for an international collaboration between different producers around the globe.

This is why the movie was produced by 3 major production houses in the region. One of them was Lost Boys Studios, a production house that is based in Vancouver region (Erdik 19). The other one was Mr. X Inc., a production house in Toronto, Canada (Erdik 9). The other production house was from Cape Town city in South Africa. The production house is named Atomic Visual Effects.

The funding of the movie was not like that of other movies produced in Hollywood. The lack of funds affected the marketing of the movie, as earlier indicated in this paper. To get the movie to the theatre houses, the producers used a lot of guerrilla marketing techniques, like those mentioned earlier in the paper.

This marketing strategy attracted a lot of controversy from other critics in the industry. One of them was the accusation that the producers of the movie were invading the privacy of the public by forwarding mails to their email accounts. This led to spamming and a lot of inconvenience for the internet users.

There is a wedding scene in the movie. According to Kehr (19), this scene was shot in Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church. The church has a long history, having been constructed in the year 1888 (Hambling 2). The church is based in the north western part of Portland, Oregon.

However, the movie producers tried to depict this as a Polish church. This is despite the fact that the church was not Polish at all (Darrah 4). But the church has had an Irish congregation in the past, and as such, the depiction in the movie was not very much out of the norm.

The interviews were conducted and recorded at different locations around the country. Some of them were done at the University of Washington in the city of Seattle (Kehr 21).

Conclusion

Despite the fact that many in the film industry trashed this movie as a low budget production that could not appeal to a larger market segment, it went ahead and proved all of them wrong by becoming of the blockbusters of the year 2004. The success of the movie has been credited in part to the marketing techniques that were adopted by the producers, where they used viral techniques and word of mouth.

This movie has been hailed by positivists in the industry as one of the best linkages that the human being can have with their spiritual selves. However, critics argue that the premise of the movie can only be described as pseudoscience.

The facts and assertions in the movie look more or less like rumours, rumours that cannot be substantiated. As the critiques in the industry continue arguing on the exact stand of the movie in the field, the public continues to enjoy the production, which has been extended to include books and DVDs that can now be watched from the house.

Works Cited

Baccil, Pat. “What the… Bleep…. Do We Know: The Docu Drama”. Press XTVWorld, 2004.

Bodew, Alexandra. Advanced Movie Criticism. London: Free Press, 2009.

Bruce, Alexandra. Beyond the Bleep: The Definitive Unauthorised Guide to “What The Bleep Do We Know!?”. New York: The Disinformation Company, 2005.

Carayannis, Andrew. What the Bleep Is It All About? Manchester: Mamcg Inc., 2008.

Darrah, Anna. “Film Review: What the $£@%! Do We Know? NoenedPress. 2004. Web.

Elizabeth, Margaret. “” ReelScience. 2005. Web.

Erdik, Jonathan. New York Movie Reviews. New York: Free Press, 2008.

Gregory, Mone. “Cult Science Dressing Up Mysticism as Quantum Physics”. Popular Science, 2004.

Hambling, David. “I See No Ships: Questioning Perceptual Blindness”. Fortean Times, 2007.

Harvey, Brown. Bleep Film and Criticism. New York: Free Press, 2008.

Huston, Tom. “Taking the Quantum Leap….. Too Far?”. What is Enlightenment? 2008.

Kehr, Dave. “A Lesson in Harnessing Good Vibes”. New York Times, 2004.

Kuttner, Fred and Rosenblum, Bruce. “Teaching Physics Mysteries versus Pseudoscience”. Physics Today (American Institute of Physics), November, 2006.

Rebekah, Grace. Let’s Get Metaphysical. London: London University Press, 2010.

Russell, Jamie. “BBC. 2005. Web.

Skeptical. “Skeptico. 2005. Web.

Wertheim, Margaret. “Quantum Mysticism”. LA Weekly, 2004.

Wilson, Elizabeth. “What the Bleep Do We Know?!”. American Chemical Society, 2005.

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