What The #$*! Do We Know?! Movie Review
Reminiscent of Carl Sagan's PBS series "Cosmos" in its disposition and its tone of wonderment, "What the #$*! Do We Know?!" is a fascinating, nearly uncategorizable movie hybrid. A documentary about the theoretical inter-relationship of spirituality, biology and quantum physics, its intricate existential concepts are wrapped around a fictional story, used to illustrate and make comprehensible all the heavy-thinking wild notions proffered by enthusiastic science wonks and philosophers interviewed in non-fiction portions of the picture.
It's a film that fires the mind with scores of terrific, circular scientific quandaries, such as the fact that experiencing, remembering and imagining an event all trigger the exact same signals in the exact same areas of the brain. So, the movie asks, what is reality and how can one tell? It also delves into under-examined notions of biology (heroin uses the same receptors on human cells as the chemicals triggered by emotions), physics (the fundamental laws of which don't recognize time), and even religion. Jesus' preaching about the mustard seed being larger than the kingdom of heaven is "pure Quantum physics" says one interviewee. Another adds, "We're living on the tip of the quantum iceberg."
By loosely tying all this into the interwoven narrative about a deaf photographer (Marlee Matlin from "Children of a Lesser God") slowly emerging from a deep and bitter post-divorce funk, writer-directors William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente provide an affecting accessibility that gradually paints a very large picture of a universe more ordered and interconnected -- and yet more mysterious -- than mankind has hitherto imagined.
"What the Bleep" (the preferred pronunciation) sometimes slips into the realm of new-age spiritual hooey since some of its glorified interview subjects radiate the same suspicious halcyon haze as weak-willed born-again types and cult members who want to convert the whole world now that they've found a psychological Band-Aid for their personality problems.
But it's so thick with provocative, often profound, food for thought that the film feels like an intellectual all-you-can-eat buffet.