This documentary film is about exactly what its title says. So as you might expect, the area of interest is only the meaning of life and all of its attendant questions.
Filmmaker Roger Nygard, perhaps best known for his documentary “Trekkies,” says this one is his “attempt to try to find meaning in the chaos.” His central question for everyone: “Why do we exist?”
Nygard, a minimal Episcopalian growing up, started asking his friends that question, then carried his interrogation across the globe, to China, India, England, Israel.
It’s a fairly fast-cutting approach for the 94 minutes, as – despite the heavy subject matter – most answers don’t break 10 seconds (as allowed in the final cut). What you get is a blitz of beliefs, comments and puzzling sayings about God and existence.
Nygard, who regularly appears onscreen as the instigator for all that happens, does find some interesting folks.
Like Brother Jed Smock, who’s been preaching fire and brimstone on college campuses for decades. And Rob Adonis, whose Christian wrestling outreach is just – unique. And the folks at a restaurant in northern California who spew every New Age platitude ever etched in crystal.
Nygard breaks the film down into sections, like sin, truth, prayer, happiness, soul and so on. These must have helped Nygard get a handle on the 450 hours of footage he amassed.
Nygard’s commentary is actually fairly funny and, for the most part, limited. He really lets his interviewees do the talking.
“Everybody can’t be right,” says a Baptist preacher. “Hopefully, I’m not wrong.”
There’s really not much surprising in “The Nature of Existence.” You can imagine that folks across the globe will say different things. And you can imagine that, given our common humanity, we’ll have drawn some similar conclusions, despite differences in sacred texts.
But Nygard does draw one conclusion that should be more common: “The more I learned about people,” he says, “the more I liked them.”
Maybe that’s a critical part of the nature of our existence: We have to get to know each other.
Cliff Vaughn is managing editor and media producer for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: Not rated. Reviewer’s note: A brief shot of male frontal nudity as part of a yogic ritual in India.