cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

What the #$*! Do We Know movie review - April 14, 2004

"What the #$*! Do We Know," aka "What the BLEEP Do We Know" has been showing at the Baghdad Theatre on 37th and Hawthorne. The Baghdad is a great place to see a movie - it's one of those magical theatres that was built in the early part of the 20th century and has lots of Middle Eastern details, stadium seating, and very importantly, good beer.

"What the BLEEP" has been playing for about a month now, and friends said things like "it blew my mind" and "it's a trip" and that the movie is "enlightening and thought-provoking." I knew it was filmed in Portland, with portions at the Baghdad, and was about quantum physics. Cool. I'm a bit of a physics geek from way back; my little sis is a high school physics teacher, and my brother is studying physics and electrical engineering, so we sometimes have geeky family discussions about the universe's laws and whether or not they need to be followed.

What is "What the BLEEP" about? The best answer I can give: it is a study of reality, and how our perception of reality distorts what is real. It is about the theory that reality exists only in our mind. That reality, really, isn't real. Quantum physics, at its essence, describes the inconsistencies between commonly held beliefs and the possibilities that physics at the molecular level unveils. For example, particles inside the cell disappear and reappear in the most random order. Seemingly solid objects are made up of cells that are over 90% vacuum, emptiness, with the cell particles that DO exist popping in and out of reality. Things that seem most real (rocks, mountains, the earth) are really barely there at all.

Let's blow our minds some more. Objects can be in two places at once. It's physical fact, according to one of the brilliant physicists interviewed in the movie. There is real evidence that thinking about a thing, makes it so. According to quantum physicists, the idea that we can affect the future, but not the past, doesn't make sense; and it shouldn't be possible that we can remember the past, but we can't remember the future. We accept these things as incontrovertable. But are they really true? Quantum physics says, how can they be?

Robin Williams told us in the 80s to "seize the day." The scientists on "What the BLEEP" tell us to "create our day." Marlee Matlin (from "The West Wing," among other things), who stars in a number of sequences that serve to describe the concepts from the movie in a witty, surprising, coy tone, realizes that her anxiety is something that she creates, not something that happens TO her. Why shouldn't she create happiness, and love, and hope? Why shouldn't we all?

Everything is interconnected - we all suspect it sometimes, and the movie walks us through how we can believe that, how the signs are all around us, the proof is out there. This movie brings all those seemingly unrelated concepts, beliefs, theories and faiths from their chaotic orbits and connects the dots, aligns the axes, brings everything to a center. Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Star Trek? Do you believe that you can visualize an event, and then go out and make it happen? Quantum physics says, yes, yes and more yes...you had better believe in the things that blow your mind, you had better open your mind to every possibility.

The Portland that serves as a backdrop for the movie is luminous, breathtaking, and dripping with possibility. Matlin gives us a heroine whose brain and body we enthusiastically inhabit. The movie pulses with the art of life, and gives us the belief that our life is more wonderful than we knew.

The movie describes a simple way of thinking about the most complex possible topics; it opens you to believe in the magical, the unreal, the impossible; it gives you a justification for superstitions and meditation and faith in God. It goes way beyond what I have described here. You have to see it, and if you are like me, you will want to see it twice a week from now until forever. There is a lot more to know. There is a lot more that we can't ever know. Now go and create your day.