Movie review: ‘The Nature of Existence’
Arts & Entertainment
“The Nature of Existence,” Cinequest’s closing film, is a stellar documentary for anybody interested in religion. People who are tired of the discussion of religion should find another film.
It’s directed by Roger Nygard, who also made the documentary “Trekkies” that explored the unique lives of Star Trek fans. “The Nature of Existence” explores metaphysical questions we all wonder.
Why we are here? Is there a God? Do we have souls? These are asked by Nygard to a vast variety of people.
Nygard has real skill for finding interesting and, sometimes, bizarre people to interview. From religious pundits to sci-fi authors around the globe, Nygard covers all of these in the religious debate. Nygard balances the discussion by including the input of scientists.
Some of the people interviewed are clearly crazy, but Nygard doesn’t exploit them, he lets their statements speak for themselves, providing a few genuinely funny segments in the documentary. In one scene, a man yelling at college students explains that masturbation is the first step toward becoming a homosexual.
The exhaustive work Nygard has spent interviewing people is in some way one of the flaws of this documentary.
At times, he presents too many opinions too fast. Nygard machine-guns the people he interviews onto the screen. The quick cuts between subjects are more fitting for a commercial than a documentary.
Somebody will say something genuinely profound, but I found myself with no time to ponder it because then the next guy pops onto the screen to give his opinion.
There is so much said in this documentary that you really need to watch it more than once to digest the statements from the people interviewed.
Halfway through the documentary, Nygard slows the number of interviews and as a result, it gets much better. As Nygard travels the globe, he introduces us to religions all around the world. This is the best part of the documentary. Nygard does a great job combining his narration with the interesting interviews.
People who are not interested in a discussion about religion will not find this film interesting. Sometimes I feel that people in the U.S. talk about religion too much.
Nygard tried to interview theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, but Hawking declined because he was tired of the God question. I find myself feeling the same way.
If you are done with the debate of God and spirituality, it’s hard to ignore Nygard’s honest approach to documentary making.
In this film he is not looking to prove that some of these people’s views on religion are wrong – he presents them and lets the viewer decide.
Nygard never injects his religious views into the film. This is refreshing compared with other documentary makers who want to prove a sensationalized point.
“The Nature of Existence” is playing on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the California Theatre.
MICHAEL LE ROY