What the Bleep?!
Down the Rabbit Hole

Starring: Marlee Matlin and Elaine Hendrix
Revolver Entertainment
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 31 July 2006

Applying basic principles of quantum physics to human psychology, this film consists largely of interviews with experts in related fields, who pose existential questions and answer them with theories of endless possibilities...

Before I go ahead and look at What the Bleep?!, I think that it is important to put my own expertise and prejudices on the table. The five disc box set is trying to sell a particular brand of Spiritualism bonded with science, therefore it's fair to ask from what position can I critic this work. Well, from the science side I hold a degree in both Mathematics and Mental Health, I'm an accredited psychotherapist and a writer. I have been interested in history and physics since I was at school and I was brought up a catholic but am now more of a Buddhist, and to complete the equation my other half is a believer in Spiritualism, so I made her watch it as well to be fair to those who follow those beliefs.

So what does What The Bleep?!: Down the Rabbit Hole set out to persuade you is possible? Well, it uses some very dubious science to prove spiritualism via science. The plus side of the set is its presentation. It uses a myriad of styles, fictional narrative, animation and talking heads, to put across its message, but then in the age of visual savvy, it would be a wonder if it didn't come over as a slick production. Having said that, anyone from the Catholics to the Mormons have access to this level of visual sophistication, so its not surprising that a bunch of elderly Americans who seem to be living in fear of the finality of death should be able to produce such a nice looking piece to try and persuade others of their beliefs.

On the down side, whilst some of the ideas are interesting they are based on a combination of a misunderstanding of science and in some cases a bending of truth to match the argument. This may account for why the talking heads, which are trying to persuade you of their argument are devoid of captions telling you who exactly they are. Sure, they are usually placed in front of bookcases or computers to give you the subliminal idea that they know what they are talking about, but in truth, if you had the standing to put forward the argument surely you'd be confident enough to put your name to your opinions. If you know anything of science and are attentive you quickly realise that most of the people are speaking a form of scientific gobbledegook, the kind of which I am more than aware is used in medical and scientific circles to cover up logical inaccuracies. Blind them with language and they will believe every word you say.

It also doesn't help the argument that David Albert, who is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, is on record as being appalled that, having spent four hours trying to explain that there was no connection between spirituality and physics, found that his interview had been edited down to twenty minutes and a bunch of in-feature snippets to make it sound as if he agreed with the philosophy behind the show. Another of the contributors, who features extensively, is Dr Fred Wolf who wrote The Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind can Defeat Time. I have to say that I haven't read it, nor from the title does it sound like I'd want to - I didn't do enough drugs in the sixties to swallow that sort of thing.

Even in the first episode the argument is shown to be dubious in the extreme with a story of the native Indians seeing Columbus's ship. Well, there's a problem with this, in that there is no record of this from either Columbus or from what is left of the Indians surviving oral tradition.

Its worst aspect is that it presents scientific speculation as fact. If they had stuck to a level of speculation and used the show as a jumping off point for more discovery and thought, it might have been more palatable, however the truth of the matter is that what is being sold here is a faith dressed up in the pseudo costume of science, which is of itself interesting. I never have had a problem with people having a faith, unless they are killing in the name of that faith, but it's interesting that you would feel the need to support a faith with science. It's almost as if they feel they need this justification as they do not have enough faith in their faith.

The set comes on five discs, the first three of which are feature length presentations and the latter consists of interviews. The picture is nice and clean throughout and the audio is stereo - not a problem when it's mostly a bunch of talking heads. There are also subtitles provided.

The sad thing is, is that the universe really is a more intriguing and stranger place than we could ever imagine and if they had stuck to just the known facts as a jumping off point for speculation, rather than a dead end for their own beliefs, then this could have been a much more interesting piece. As for my other half, who does believe in spiritualism, well she was somewhat dismayed and thought that they all looked and sounded a little too much like the Californian scientist out of The Fast Show.

So buy it if this sort of thing interests you, but remember to watch it with your guard up. This feature definitely has an agenda and is willing to bend reality itself to prove it.

Charles Packer

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