The Nature of ExistenceOverview -
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Newsflash: People, all over the world, have different views about God, an afterlife, and religion.
'The Nature of Existence' has this crazy idea that it's a deep, philosophical documentary about one man's search for the truth about life, religion, and the Big Man Upstairs. Instead, all it ends up being is a confused montage of clips with people saying anything and everything that comes to mind about life's most asked questions.
Roger Nygard ('Trekkies') travels the world asking different people such as scientists, priests, rabbis, and even a minister of Satan about the meaning of life, about their beliefs in an all-knowing creator, and if there's a life after this one.
Nygard's questions are all over the place. At first he's trying to delve into what people think about God in general, and then the next minute we're talking about why masturbation is a sin. It's like Nygard forgot the thesis he started out with and just continued on with tangent after tangent. I must admit though, the 7th grade atheist was pretty amusing. She shows Santa Claus what's up that's for sure. Also, a church based solely around professional wrestling gets my vote for the most creative.
He meets a lot of strange but very sure individuals along the way. None of these people have many enlightening things to say. That's not because they aren't good, wholesome, nice folks, it's just because Nygard's direction wants them to just speak off the cuff. If that's what he's going for, fine, but it causes the documentary to become unfocused and unhinged. While Nygard is able to pull off some pretty funny series of clips of what people have to say about God, none of their answers, nor the editing of them, helps us come anywhere near a conclusion.
Whether you're religious or not, 'The Nature of Existence' holds little to no substance for you. It's a wishy-washy look into people's beliefs that leaves you feeling no more enlightened than before it started.
Perhaps this short 90-minute doc is a sign of things to expect in the longer, more in-depth series, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Without a guiding light, so to speak, 'The Nature of Existence' wanders around in a narrative hell until Nygard comes up with a solution that sounds something like "Everyone has different opinions, but all of us already knew that, right?"
Most likely shot on a very tight budget, where most of Nygard's money was probably spent globe hopping, this 1080i presentation of 'The Nature of Existence' never had a chance. It's seldom a good idea to expect big things from a documentary in high definition anyway. Stock footage is almost always blurry, and there comes moments where the camera just isn't adequate for what it is capturing. Nevertheless, 'The Nature of Existence' does the very best it can with what it's given, but even then it's still pretty poor.
Much of the movie is as blurry as you'd see on DVD. Facial details are nowhere near "fine." The entire film is a murky experience. Colors are flat and unassuming. Blacks are lethargic, and sport loads of blocking during one very dark scene in the house of Spiritual Guide Aha. Jaggies abound scene after scene creating edges on passing object, which are spiky and incoherent. Aliasing is another huge problem for most of the film's runtime. Whenever there are a few lines together, you're bound to get a glimpse of aliasing.
The audio leaves a lot to be desired too. The only audio offerings to choose from here are a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track or a contained 2.0 alternative. It's not like it matters which one you choose. The 5.1 track might as well be a 2.0 track, because the rears stay silent for much of the film and there's really no reason for the sub to rumble with LFE.
Even with that, the 5.1 Dolby Digital track does do its best to give us intelligible dialogue, except there are a few parts that inexplicably have much lower volume than the rest of the movie. It's almost impossible to hear what is being said most of the time. Again, like the video, this audio is just about as good as something you'd find on DVD.
- Audio Commentary – Nygard is joined by his friends and crew to talk about the movie while it plays. The commentary is very overpopulated and it's hard to catch who is speaking at what time.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 29 min.) – There's a wealth of deleted scenes in here. You could say that they actually build on the material already in the movie, but they come off just as rambling and unfocused as the clips that made it into the movie. If you're into watching more answers to the questions being asked then you'll dig all the scenes you'll find here.
- Making of 'The Nature of Existence' (SD, 12 min.) – Why a 12 minute documentary is split up into nine parts I will never know. Anyway, this making of featurette covers the main idea of the movie along with the traveling and finding people to interview.
- 'The Destroyers' (SD, 8 min.) – Recordings of evangelists yelling at crowds and a campus full of kids heckling them. It's the same preacher seen in the film talking to kids on other university campuses.
- 'Poultercube' (SD, 4 min.) – A small short film, from 1983, about solving a Rubiks Cube. Directed by Nygard 'Poultercube' is a short throwback to 'Poultergiest.' The Rubiks Cube is haunted. Watch out! A commentary with Nygard and the actor in the movie is also available. The commentary is fun, because they make fun of the movie as it goes.
- Biographies – All text biographies are available for you to read. Biographies for Roger Nygard, Paul Tarantino, and Billy Sullivan are available.
- Trailers (SD) – An original trailer, a theatrical trailer, and a trailer for the companion series are available here.
Nygard's intentions are good, his execution however is flawed. The way this documentary is pieced together makes it seem much more like a study of human idiosyncrasies in different parts of the world than a documentary on God and whether he exists. The video and audio are near atrocious, especially for the format, but none of us were expecting much at the outset anyway so it's not like I came away really disappointed. The special features are nice if you find yourself liking the movie. Overall, my recommendation would be to skip it, but some of you may be interested in seeing it for yourself. For you people I would say rent it first and see what you think.
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