'The End of Quantum Reality': Film Review

Courtesy of Cinelounge Releasing
Prepare to doze off in class.

Katheryne Thomas' documentary revolves around the life and theories of physicist Wolfgang Smith.

Before seeing the new documentary The End of Quantum Reality, currently receiving theatrical engagements around the country, you may want to familiarize yourself with the Philos-Sophia Initiative. To save you an internet search, here's an introductory statement from the foundation's website: "The mission of the Philos-Sophia Initiative shall be to promote the restitution of authentic philosophy, based upon the ontological resolution of the quantum reality problem. It is our hope, and indeed our expectation, that this rectification of the contemporary Weltanschauung — which connects our most fundamental science with the categories of authentic philosophy — will lead not only to a restitution of philosophy, but to new and as yet undreamed-of domains of scientific research as well. And finally: the foundation intends to prioritize an outreach to the young designed to discover and promote philosophic talent wherever it may be found, ad majorem gloriam Dei."

Got all that? Or are you confused? Here's a hint, assuming that your knowledge of Latin is a bit rusty: The final phrase translates to "for the greater glory of God," which is the motto for the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church. So that at least lets you know that you're in for more than a little proselytizing, with plenty of scientific jargon.

To be effective, however, ideas have to be transmitted with clarity, even to laymen. That's definitely not the case here. "No one understands quantum theory," one of the film's talking heads says early on, and this documentary is unlikely to rectify that situation. It revolves around the theories of Wolfgang Smith, a mathematician, philosopher and physicist who has little use for such ideas as "the quantum enigma" or the "multiverse theory," both of which are explained here in a manner that will probably prove baffling to anyone without a solid background in physics. We're also introduced to such ideas as Bell's Theorem and Dembski's Theorem, but even after watching the film, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you much about them. Most documentaries at least strive to be educational. This one proves so willfully impenetrable that it just leaves you feeling bad for having dozed off through those introductory physics classes.

The 89-year-old Smith proves a less than compelling camera subject, although his thick accent provides suitable gravitas; he sounds exactly like an eminent physicist should sound. He relates the story of his life, including the fact that he first studied philosophy in college but dropped out after three weeks. He switched to mathematical physics, and a lifelong career was born. He also talks about how he interrupted his studies to spend seven months in India, and about his marriage to a strict Catholic woman that resulted in him re-embracing his faith.

Despite the frequent use of graphics and animation to help alleviate the tedium of numerous talking heads (we hear from several other scientists as well), the film fails to makes its significant points accessible. By the end, most viewers will at least have grasped Smith's disdain for the idea that the universe is composed of atomic particles that apparently only come into existence through acts of observation or measurement. And that his main theory, known as Vertical Causation, is at odds with those devised by the likes of Descartes and Newton. At least, I think that's the case — unfortunately, I watched the film alone via a screener and wasn't able to sneak peeks at the notes of fellow film critics.

By the way, the previous effort from director Katheryne Thomas and screenwriter-producer Rick DeLano, 2014's The Principle, similarly skewered the theories of Copernicus, that hack, instead advancing the idea that Earth is in fact the center of the universe. Are you sensing a common theme?

Production: In Ohm Entertainment
Distributor: Cinelounge Releasing
Director: Katheryne Thomas
Screenwriter-producer: Rick DeLano
Editors: Katheryne Thomas, Nicole Bakirtjy

84 minutes