What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Movie Information

Genre: Speculative Docu-drama
Director: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vincente
Starring: Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix, Barry Newman, Robert Bailey, Jr., Robert Blanche
Rated: NR

For viewers, the question about this movie is whether they consider its quantum physics-based “truth-or-illusion” exploration profound or just so much cosmic codswallop. How you answer will probably dictate how you feel about the film in general.

Myself, I’m somewhere between noncommittal and the codswallop league. Perhaps that’s because I’m just a soupcon on the skeptical side when one of the experts doing the talking in the film turns out to be Ramtha, who is apparently some 35,000-year-old wise man from Atlantis, as channeled by a lady called JZ Knight.

It makes me feel like I’ve wandered into something on really late-night TV. And it becomes particularly unsettling when the things she — or is it he? — says make more sense than all the semi-scientific stuff from the more reasonably accredited experts.

The question of the film’s veracity to one side, it’s intriguingly made. What the Bleep attempts to fuse a narrative involving an unhappy photographer (Marlee Matlin), the input of expert talking heads, and some rather curious illustrative computer animations into a unified whole. It would help if the narrative was a little more compelling, or if the animations hadn’t kept reminding me of one of those V.D. films from high school, the kind where infected folk walk around with little tic-tac-toe boards superimposed over their midsections.

The film wants to be equally entertaining and enlightening, and ends up being neither, because it devotes insufficient time to any one aspect of the ideas it introduces. The fatal flaw is that the film feels a bit like it’s a deliberate exercise in obfuscation, with the thesis being that the harder it is to understand, the more profound it must be. It’s a mystical variation on the old canard, “I don’t understand it, so it must be art.”

To the degree that I understood what all of this was leading to, I ultimately didn’t see too much difference between its quantum physics and Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking — though I rather doubt that either the mystics or Dr. Peale would be apt to think they’re in the same church, let alone the same pew. But really, what operative difference is there between the idea of positive thought impacting our lives and the film’s notion that we control our destinies by the realities we create?

I’d be much more impressed by these notions that nothing is real were they not delivered by people in solid, upscale surroundings, but that’s a separate issue. This is an odd, even fascinating, little movie, but I don’t think it’s very likely to have a profound effect on anyone who isn’t already sold on its message.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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