The International Writers Magazine: New on DVD Review on Ramtha
What the #$*!
Do We Know?
Directed by William Arntz Betsy Chasse +
Writing credits William Arntz Betsy Chasse +
Recently, on a visit
from my mother-in-law, I was surprised that she wanted to take me and
my wife to see a documentary film about quantum physics.
The surprise came from the fact that she is far more wont to New Agey
beliefs than either of us. The film was called What the #$*! Do We Know?
After seeing it I understand why my mother-in-law was interested in
this physics film- because its not about physics.
Instead, its a propaganda film put out by a cult headed by a bovine
blonde woman named JZ Knight, whos claimed for decades that she
channels the spirit of a 35,000 year old warrior from Atlantis named
Ramtha. Yet, its not even a clever little film as propaganda,
because its so poorly edited, atrociously acted, and inanely backdropped
against a dozen or so talking heads of the sort that usually delineate
documentaries. Except, theres a difference. These talking heads
go uncredited until the end of the film because they are all charlatans
and quacks. The film also had three directors- William Arntz, Betsy
Chasse, and Mark Vicente- who just happen to be Ramtha cultists. Worse,
the films a mess- all that spiritualism and not a dram of creativity?
This is not like New York Stories where three great directors- Woody
Allen, Francis Ford Copolla, and Martin Scorsese- did three small films
that were independent. This film is tripartite, but interspersed like
water, oil, and- oh- New Age bilge. Its part faux documentary,
part lame Junior High/Industrial film, part psychadelic cartoon. Tag
team directing, yet no one in charge.
It starts off seeming to be a straight science documentary, but turns
into a New Age infomercial of the sort that makes hucksters like Tony
Robbins and Deepak Chopra seem credible. Among the roster of shame is
JZ Knight/Ramtha her-himself- whose hooga-booga is the first sign that
this documentary is not. Other pseudo-intellectuals include
quasi-physicist, founder of the Natural Law Party, and sometime Presidential
candidate John Hagelin, physicist-mystic Fred Alan Wolf- whose career
suicide in recent decades was rivaled only by the late psychiatrist
John Mack, of UFO Abduction infamy and whose tagline for the film is
The key to life is not to be in the know but to be in the mystery.,
and a token Indian swami type- actually named Amit Goswami.
Then theres the putative story of the film, in which
deaf actress Marlee Matlin (please, someone write a decent role for
her) portrays a photographer whose life is an archetype of addiction
and regret. Via flashbacks we see she was cheated on by her ex-husband,
loathes her job, has a ditzy blond roommate and lascivious boss. Of
course, this is all those characters represent. There is no real story.
Amanda amazes at the quantum physical possibilities of the world, or
else is just hallucinating because shes off her anti-psychotic
meds. On her way to work she meets an annoying prepubescent Wise
Negro basketballer on a mystical basketball court, who clearly
has no idea what hes saying. Why should he, though? He and Amanda
exist to illustrate questionable nostra put forth by the talking heads.
Later, Amanda photographs a Polish wedding, and the cultural stereotypes
fly. Apparently New Age PC has deemed that Polacks are still fair game
- to the point of making them suffer through animated sequences with
bloated, gaseous human cells that fart, burp, and fornicate. Yet, the
graphics are dated - the level of a mid-70s sci fi flick like Logans
Run. The animation does nothing to advance Amandas story, nor
enliven the commentary of the experts.
After grounding the viewer with facts known about quantum
physics, the experts slowly go astray, piling on seemingly
logical syllogisms to the point of absurdity. For example, in certain
conditions matter can appear to be in two places at once, therefore
humans can be in two places at once. The problem is that what may or
may not be true at the sub-atomic level, in very specific controlled
circumstances, has absolutely no correlation to the uncontrolled macro-world
humans abound in. Another example is the commonly misinterpreted idea
that nothing exists without an observer, yet observation
is not necessarily a conscious act. The truer form of that claim is
that nothing exists without interaction - time is the record of events.
Without events time is a meaningless construct. Yet, from
this misconstrual the experts declaim we are omnipotent, gods controlling
our every moment. Of course, randomness does not exist in this paradigm
(a word tossed about so liberally it should have been bathed in French
dressing). Therefore, if something is wrong in our life its our
fault- we chose to be hit by a drunk driver, the Elephant Man chose
to be deformed and scorned, etc. This, naturally, is the same co-dependent
guilt-ridden tripe 12-Steppers have been spewing for decades.
Its no surprise almost all the strictly non-scientific claims
are bogus or lies. Two stick out - the first is a claim that in the
summer of 1993, when a group of people in Washington D.C. meditated
to reduce crime in the city by 25% it occurred. This is flat out false,
and has been debunked on many skeptics/urban legend websites. In fact,
crime rose during the time of the meditators. Yet, a more profound question
should be asked- why didnt the group aim to totally reduce crime?
Because its easy to fudge a numbers game with a statistic like
25%, yet a 100% reduction is impossible to fudge.
The second example is a claim that some photographs taken by Masaru
Emoto (a doctor of alternative medicine) show the formation of ice crystals
of differing types in bottles of water frozen, with different words
pasted on it. Words with negative connotations showed deformed crystals,
while words with positive connotations showed perfectly formed crystals.
First off, the photos show just a single crystal each- not a pattern.
Secondly, there is no proof offered that the bottles were so worded,
nor that their wording produced the claimed effect- even on the single
crystals photographed, nor that the crystals were from the bottles worded
as claimed. Of course, Emotos work has never been peer reviewed.
Furthermore, the film uses this dubious claim to insist that since humans
are largely water, similar thought processes can affect and psychically
deform us. Damn my Western rationality!
Such thinking is on par with Creation Science, Intelligent Design, and
the Omega Point. What started out a few decades ago as a sincere Norman
Vincent Peale urging people to, Change your thoughts and you change
your world. has now become the realm of all sorts of charlatans.
Matlins Amanda is a photographer, yet cannot see until she embraces
the Ramtha philosophy. In a moment that pinnacles bad art with worse
science, Amanda tosses her bottle of anti-psychotic meds into a trash
can and liberates herself to self-empowerment; and presumably endless
delusion. Its no surprise, then, that a talking head then mixes
metaphor with reality and claims its only negativity and cultural
bias that prevents us from literally walking on water like Jesus did.
In this metaverse things like mass and surface tension are just products
A major flaw with this nirvana of self-empowerment is that it denies
the existence of other self-empowered beings who may be working at odds
with your self-empowerment. What happens when two such wills meet is
never broached. Why? Reason. But why expect reason from a film that
makes the astounding claim that when Columbuss ships were first
sighted by native Hispaniolans they were not seen- literally. The explanation
for this is 1: the films patois cannot distinguish between metaphor
and reality, 2: cultural relativism taken ad absurdum. While the natives
had never seen large European sailing vessels theyd certainly
seen ships, and fabric from the sails, the wood that made the ships.
Light still reflected off these solids- no? This bogus claim is then
held up as an exemplar of different realities to different peoples-
i.e.- all realities are subjective in toto.
This film is a combination of bad art, and emotional and intellectual
dishonesty - the very reason they do not give the names and backgrounds
of the experts until the end. The problem is not that the
film has no answers to the questions it posits, but the questions, themselves,
are asked with annoying smirks by condescending fakers who seem contented
with their own superiority, and ignorance. Heres hoping rationality
still has a place in President Bushs world (grimace).
© Dan Schnieder November 2004
(As an antidote to this absurd documentary - take yourself to see
the wonderful existentialist comedy 'I Heart Huckabees' Directed by
David O Russell) - Ed
More Reviews by Dan Schneider here
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