How do you make a film about quantum physics appeal to a public that would ordinarily turn their noses up at such ideas???? Dress it up with a schmaltzy Alice In Wonderland storyline, add some impressive special effects and a bit of animation and unleash it on an unsuspecting audience. This strange hybrid of documentary and drama follows the story of Amanda, Marlee Matlin, a photographer who is at the end of her tether. Her grasp on reality and life seems strained to nearly breaking point and she is beginning to question everything that is going on around her. Whilst we see this, a group of scientists in the background discuss quantum physics and theology. Like a Greek Chorus, they are separate from the story and their theories are reflected in what happens to Amanda throughout the course of the film. As they discuss questions such as “what is reality?”, “What is thought?” etc, Amanda plays the ideas out for us and gradually achieves both understanding and acceptance that she is not a victim of circumstance and can shape her own future.
First things first, this isn’t a “come home after pub on a Friday night for a little entertainment” type film; if you’re going to watch this, you really are going to need to be alert and clear-headed as some of the concepts involved are baffling. I’m not a scientifically minded person and the theories involved left me cold, smacking of new-ageism – the fact that Madonna is a fan of this movie only reinforcing this. The idea of using fiction as a way of illustrating the principles that the scientists discuss is an interesting one, although for me at least, it does not work. Whilst Amanda’s story is intriguing, mainly due to an excellent performance from Matlin, she is never given the time to establish her character because of the scientists/theologists constant interruptions. We know that she is the victim of a bad relationship, and that she is struggling in both her professional and social life, but we are not given a proper background, and because of the format of the film, we never care, realising she is just a device. Also, because of the amount of time dedicated to theory, the other characters in Amanda’s life are barely touched on, seeming unrealistic and insubstantial.
The science mentioned in the film has already been used heavily in science-fiction, for example The Matrix trilogy centres around believing entirely in one’s actions and based in alternate realities. It’s surely no coincidence that Armin Shimmerman (Quark from Star Trek) is one of the characters Amanda meets. This is where I feel the theories should have remained – in fiction. There’s no doubt the people who made the film believe in what they’ve done and the fact that they are prepared to go to such a variety of means (at one point the film has an animated song/dance number reminding me of the dance of the pink elephants in Fantasia!) and for me this smacks of desperation. Some people will obviously find this interesting and enlightening. Myself, I found it dull, uninspiring and even pretentious.