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Deep Thoughts

"What the Bleep Do We Know!?" takes a brief look at reality.

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"What the Bleep" was made by a team of three filmmakers — Betsy Chasse, William Arntz and Mark Vicente. Marlee Matlin stars during its brief moments of fictional narrative as our Everywoman taking the proverbial trip down the rabbit hole. She finds herself experiencing what the film calls the quantum uncertainties of life, as various talking heads offer tidbits of subatomic wisdom during her journey through an anonymous but extremely clean city.

If quantum physics means spit-shined sidewalks and easy parking, we should be all for it. "What the Bleep" presents such a world: wondrous and full of unlimited possibility. The film's principal conclusion is that life as we know it is a construct of the machine we inhabit, the body. More than simply seeing those ships on the horizon, it explains, we can add to reality if we concentrate hard enough. We can change the world with our thoughts.

The movie's enthusiasm is likeable, and it takes some interesting diversions. It discusses the nature of addiction, our subatomic interaction with other matter and the complexities that transcend our limited concepts like good and evil.

Yet viewers will notice at this point that the film wants it both ways, talking about something as elusive as "quantum uncertainty" in terms that are often reductive and didactic — and sometimes wrong. We can do a lot of things, but we can't tie Buddhist thought, as the film would have it, to the notion that we are all one. That's the Hindu religion. Buddhists would say we're all zero.

Spirituality comes up often. Everything is couched as a better way to get religion, with a nondenominational god referred to as "the ultimate observer." Faux mathematical notation is used in the film's graphic design, but not much hard science is discussed, and we don't get to learn who all the experts are until the end credits. Most of the speakers, we learn, though they studied physics at one time or another, are not experts in the field. When they are, they are usually fringe players, teaching or still studying at minor universities. One is a psychic. Another is a chiropractor.

The mixture of spirituality with speculative science forces the question: What the bleep is this all about? The documentary never tells us. Its ideas are just pitched rapid fire, without warning, with little to no evidence and sometimes without context. When one of the speakers talks about the brain as a "wonderful thing" that can "take us to a higher level," his statement is not the summation of previous and more complex discussion. It is simply a statement.

Yet for its flaws, "What the Bleep" is an enthusiastic exploration of a topic long overdue for public interest. Consider it a kind of "Brief History of Time for Dummies," though very New-Agey and given to some fabulous notions.

"We are all gods," the film tells us. There are doubtless thousands of people who could use messages like this. Others will find it simple and more than a little clichéd. When we learn later that the intense woman who says she is supposed to be channeling an ancient mystic — well, let's just say our quantum uncertainty is very pronounced. ** S

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