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Nature of Existence, The (DVD Review)

13 Nov, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 11/23/10
Walking Shadows
Box Office $0.05 million
$24.95 DVD, $29.95 two-DVD set, $29.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Roger Nygard.

For whatever it is or isn’t, The Nature of Existence is certainly not lacking in ambition. This documentary, the latest from Trekkies director Roger Nygard, explores that most universal of questions: “Why are we here?”

To find answers, he spent four years travelling the globe in search of the so-called experts. He interviews religious leaders, who say we are created to worship God in exchange for everlasting spiritual life. He interviews scientists, who say people are products of a universe of intricate systems and physical laws. There is no shortage of viewpoints here.

In one exchange, noted biologist Richard Dawkins says that religion is a tool of the ignorant to explain what they cannot understand, and that eventually science will provide answers. Then the documentary catches him as he slips up and says “God knows” it will be wonderful when that scientific enlightenment occurs.

Nygard also has uncovered an atheist 7th grader, though hearing someone so young sound so jaded might stir mixed emotions.

In another amusing segment, Nygard introduces his skeptic friend to Jed Smock, an evangelist who tours colleges and yells platitudes at students as they walk by. The friend tries to catch Smock in a logical trap, but Smock seems to have an answer for all his questions.

Nygard uses the same basic documentary approach he took with Trekkies, which is that of the outsider looking in. Nature of Existence, however, puts more of a focus on Nygard’s personal journey as well, making the film as much about the quest for answers as it is the answers themselves.

Viewers can expect a heavy dose of philosophy, but if a common theme emerges it is that answers are fleeting and all one can do is to keep searching.

But the most concise reasoning comes from Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner, who at age 87 has decided the pursuit of true happiness is folly. “Life is very difficult,” he says. “Unless you’re a total idiot. Then you can be happy.”

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