Sages Worldwide Opine on "The Nature of Existence"

The Nature of Existence PosterWhat would you do if you could go anywhere in the world, and ask anyone you wanted any question you wanted? How about all the questions you wanted? Yes, even “the big questions.”
Well, that’s exactly what filmmaker Roger Nygard (maker of the acclaimed documentary “Trekkies”) did. For 4 whole years.
For 4 years, he went around the world, asking hundreds of people the toughest 85 questions he could think of, all about the purpose and nature of existence.
What kinds of people, you ask? Everyone from his neighbor’s 7th grade daughter to Buddhist monks, Confucian scholars, a 24th generation taoist master, an Orthodox Jewish lesbian, a Magus of the Church of Satan, the arch-druid of Stonehenge (I’m not kidding!), Catholic and Anglican Bishops, the director of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a guy actually named King Arthur Pendragon (again, not kidding), string theorists and particle physicists from Stanford and Oxford, psychology professors, an ex-Scientologist, atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, a university-campus Evangelist, the pastor of a Texas gay mega-church, Baptist preachers, spiritual gurus, an Iranian taxi driver, a chef, an imam, science fiction authors, poets, Native American spiritual leaders, an alien channeler, and a Christian Wrestling Minister (who plans to have perfect abs in Heaven). And a Hasidic Rabbi in East Jerusalem, of course.
The result is this movie.
THE QUESTIONS include such doozies as:

  • Why do we exist and what are we supposed to do about it?
  • What started the Universe and was it a mistake?
  • Does God exist and why does he seem so interested in our sex lives?

The film essentially features 2 stories – one is the story of Minnesota-boy Roger, going around the world, looking for answers (and interesting people willing to talk to this friendly American about their place in the universe). The other is the story of what they actually tell him. These side-by-side glimpses into the world views of all these very different people, from so many very different places and faiths, is nothing short of fascinating. And somehow, rather positive and uplifting. And at times, quite amusing, as well.
All this adds up to a movie that’s surprisingly light, surprisingly funny, and yet very thoughtful, and thought-provoking. You’ll leave with a smile on your face, but it’ll be a thoughtful smile, a late-night-discussion-over-drinks smile.  The filmmaker is not pushing any point of view on you – he just lays out his journey, and leaves the rest up to you. If you loved that comparative-religions class in college, or if you’re just interested in what other people might be thinking, and like to have a few laughs along the way – this film is for you!
I should probably mention that at the screening I attended, the filmmaker himself told the audience that

“you probably should not see this movie, because it will mess with your mind a little bit.”

I guess I must enjoy having my mind messed with. Apparently, so do a whole lot of other people, as more than 70% of the audience stayed for the Q&A session after (this is one movie made for Q&A sessions!)
Some of my favorite quotes from the film include:

  • Religion is the banana skin
  • In a certain sense, we do not exist (from a physicist)
  • God is into unique methods
  • Masturbation is promiscuity, but always with a perfect partner
  • I suppose a total idiot can be happy
  • And the film’s final (and highly appropriate) words:
    “Unless we’re wrong”

If you still need further convincing, the film’s co-producer is a guy named Paul Tarantino. He says he’s no relation, but any film made by a Tarantino has got to be good, right?
The preview trailer, plus several clips from the film – arranged by subject (including drag racing, aliens, and premarital sex) – are available here, if you’d like to check them out.
The movie is playing this week – through Thursday, October 7th – at The Parkway Theater – 4814 Chicago Ave S. in Minneapolis.
Showtimes are:

  • Saturday, 10/2:  2:00 – 4:20 – 6:40 – 9:00
  • Sunday, 10/3: 1:40 – 3:30 – 5:20 – 7:10 – 9:00
  • Monday, 10/4, through Thursday, 10/7: 5:20 – 7:10 – 9:00

The film will also be available on DVD on November 23d.
Final note: if you go, stay to the end of the credits. It’s worth it.

Check out the preview trailer and get yourself to The Parkway Theater asap!

(See if you can spot the pair of Hasidic Jews in the trailer)


[Image: The Nature of Existence]