Documentary on existence wide, not deep
After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, documentary filmmaker Roger Nygard says he became obsessed with the ideas of why we exist — and why people with religious beliefs would commandeer planes into the Twin Towers.
In “The Nature of Existence,” Nygard doesn’t really answer those questions. But he travels around the United States, interviewing scholars, New Age spiritualists, fundamentalists and theologians, many of whom have widely divergent thoughts.
He also takes his camera to Israel, India, China, Italy and England, probing the belief systems of Taoists, Druids, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and a variety of other religions.
Nygard, who previously directed “Trekkies,” presents an elementary overview of Filmmaker Roger Nygard, center, went to India and beyond in search of an answer to the question of why we exist. religious and nonreligious thought, but his attempt to cram all of these beliefs into a film of 94 minutes results in a shallow, cursory examination.
Stanford physicist Leon- ard Susskind, Chinese Taoist master Zhang Chengda and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins end up competing for airtime with such characters as confrontational evangelist Brother Jed Smock, Stonehenge druid King Arthur Pendragon and Ultimate Christian Wrestling founder Rob Adonis.
These juxtapositions make for a lively — but wildly uneven — philosophical discussion.
And in the end, Nygard seems to have come away with the comforting notion that the world’s religions can exist in harmony, in an atmosphere of tolerance — a somewhat odd conclusion given the impetus for the making “The Nature of Existence.”
Nygard, however, does not address the possibility that he was asking the wrong question throughout his documentary. The biggest — and most answerable — question just might be “how we exist,” not “why we exist.” Rating: Not rated, adult themes. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. Theater: Arbor.