"WHAT THE #$*! DO WE KNOW?!" is a radical departure from convention. It demands a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed, not even dreamed of since Copernicus. It's...
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Interviews with scientists and authors, animated bits, and a storyline involving a deaf photographer are used in this docudrama to illustrate the link between quantum mechanics, neurobiology, human consciousness and day-to-day reality.
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"WHAT THE #$*! DO WE KNOW?!" is a radical departure from convention. It demands a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed, not even dreamed of since Copernicus. It's a documentary. It's a story. It's mind-blowing special effects. This film plunges you into a world where quantum uncertainty is demonstrated - where neurological processes, and perceptual shifts are engaged and lived by its protagonist - where everything is alive, and reality is changed by every thought. Written by
It's nice to see that there are some movies being made and released into mainstream theaters that actually make you think. Great fictional films do this through the delivery of their stories, but What the #$*! Do We Know does it in a much more direct way, almost like an educational film. It's a fascinating exploration of existential theories and philosophy, and is one of those very rare movies that will challenge the way you think even about everyday life. It's a strange film and moves entirely too fast for much of it's material to sink in, but it's a great exploration of quantum physics and some of the implications that it has on our lives that we really don't think about, but should.
The story sporadically focuses on the life of Amanda (Marlee Matlin), a deaf woman suffering through heartbreak and work troubles but who ultimately alters her perception by applying certain rules and theories of quantum physics, as I imagine we are expected to after seeing the movie. The great thing about the movie is that it makes you think, but the biggest problem with it is that it uses presentation to make simple statements seem grand and make crazy assertions seem like they have merit.
There is one point where the movie says, "Here's a puzzle - why should we be able to remember the past and not have the same access to the future?'' What is that? A completely obvious fact of linear time is rendered strange just by being in this movie. It's odd that the movie delves so deep into such statuesque disciplines as quantum physics and the very fabric of the universe, while not knowing why you can remember a conversation you had today, but for some weird, unknown and mysterious reason, you can't remember a conversation you will have tomorrow.
The film also makes outlandish claims and then shrouds them in the mysteriousness of unobservable history. There is a part of the movie that claims that when the first ships arrived in what is now North America, the Native Americans looked out to sea and saw the water parted by the ships, but could not see the ships themselves because they had never seen anything like them before. This, obviously, is utter nonsense, but the movie uses it as an example of its suggestion that there are different levels of reality for different people. There is no pure, objective reality, but different plains of existence for different people.
A friend of mine, who hails this as one of the greatest films he's ever seen, explained to me that the Native Americans' minds simply did not understand how to decode the concept of a ship, a signifier which they had never encountered and so it was perfectly understandable that they couldn't see it. Wrong! Sure, they had never seen ships before, but I am willing to go out on a limb and assume that they had seen wood before, and since vision is merely the process of light bouncing off of objects and coming into contact with the retina inside the eye, it is physically impossible for a Native American to have x-ray vision because he or she doesn't know what a certain object is.
My friend used the example that it is not until you learn that lightning travels from the ground to the clouds rather than the other way around that you really begin to see it that way. Before you learn that curious little fact, you see lightning and are completely sure that it's coming out of the clouds and zapping the earth. You do see it differently from then on, it's true, but you did SEE it before you knew where it originated, right? And incidentally, lightning is known to travel from the ground to the clouds, from the clouds to the ground, and from one cloud to another. But when it occurs, I am willing to suggest that it's rarely invisible, even if, as they say, there's no one there to see it.
I believe that the human mind is set up to believe what it wants to believe (hence religion), but I do not feel obliged to believe that people's beliefs or knowledge enable them to see through solid objects just because they've never seen them before, nor do I believe that any human has the ability to change the molecular structure of water just by thinking about it in a certain way, which is another of the more bizarre claims that the movie makes. I don't know, I just never thought of water as susceptible to being offended or made happy, or having any effect over human emotions.
But while the movie does slip up by going a little far in claims like these, it's important to have things like this because even for things like invisible ships, which we know are not reality, it is good that it makes you think about them. There are a lot of things in the world that we take for granted, and not just possessions but truths, and it is movies like What the #$*! Do We Know that really get people thinking about them. For a while, at least.
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