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Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Bill Hunt, Editor of The Digital Bits

The Nature of Existence (Blu-ray Disc)

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!


The Nature of Existence
2009 (2010) - Walking Shadows
Released on Blu-ray Disc on November 23rd, 2010
Also available on DVD.
Blu-ray also available from Amazon.ca.

DTS-HD MA

Program Rating: A
Video (1-20): 14
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: B


A while back, I got an e-mail from our old friend Roger Nygard, the director of Trekkies and Trekkies II (and the producer of Six Days in Roswell). Roger wanted to let me know that he'd recently finished his latest documentary film, The Nature of Existence, and he was going to be showing it at the Newport Beach Film Festival. I was happy to take him up on the invitation to see it, and I'm VERY glad I did.


The Nature of Existence, in a nutshell, is a thoughtful examination of the basic questions everyone asks themselves at one time or another in their lives: Why are we here? What's the meaning of life? Is there a God? The film approaches these questions by looking at them from all angles: religion, science, philosophy, etc. If any of you saw Bill Maher's recent documentary, Religulous, Roger's film covers some of the same ground. The difference is, The Nature of Existence is FAR superior. For one thing, while it was occasionally funny, Religulous had a clear agenda. Maher thinks religion is bad - period. And his comments throughout the film get more and more heavy-handed to reflect this. Like him or not, Maher's not really interested in learning anything about people's beliefs, he's mocking them.

Roger, on the other hand, goes out around the country, and eventually around the world, in a quest to understand faith and religion. And he does it because he GENUINELY wants to understand. Roger seeks out people of every faith (and some who don't believe as well) for their ideas and opinions. His list of interviewees includes priests, preachers, shaman, rabbis, clerics, wise men, holy men, medicine men, gurus, academics, scientists, philosophers, writers, directors (including the late Irvin Kershner!), waitresses... you name it. The list of names is extraordinary (you'll recognize many of them), but you'll be just as surprised and engaged by those you don't recognize. In the film, just about everyone Roger wanted to interview was willing to talk with him except the Pope (who is more than happy to speak with you for the nominal "donation" of $20,000) and physicist Stephen Hawking (Roger told me after the screening that Hawking is "tired of the God question."). In any case, there's truly thoughtful ideas, insights and discussion here, along with plenty of good-natured humor - some really great laughs. The journey is charming and highly entertaining, even hopeful. Roger has a wonderful way of seeking out and finding some of the most interesting people you could imagine, and letting them be themselves on camera, without pre-judging them for his audience. You get the sense that he really likes or at least appreciates everyone he met (even if he didn't end up agreeing with them), and you will too.

I pleased to say that the film has now been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Walking Shadows. The Blu-ray offers the film in good quality on the whole - certainly comparable to other documentary releases on the format. Most of the original interview footage was shot in 16x9 SD but it's been upconverted and all the film's graphics were produced in HD. Audio is available in both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo in 448Kbps Dolby Digital format, and whichever mix you choose serves the images well. To be fair, this isn't the kind of film you buy on Blu-ray to dazzle friends with HD eye-candy... and that's okay. The BD delivers an experience that certainly replicates a good theatre viewing, just as it should.

Extras on the disc include audio commentary with Roger (as well as the film's editor, associate producer and composer, and also some of Roger's friends who helped him with the project), extensive deleted scenes and extended interviews, a featurette on The Making of The Nature of Existence, bonus comedy and musical performances (by some of those interviewed in the film), profiles of many of the interviewees, trailers, 2 early short films by Nygard (Poltercube and The Destroyers) and more. It's a nice batch of extras - certainly more than you get on most documentary releases.

It's worth noting that if you want to go deeper into the film's subject matter, Roger has taken all of the extra interview footage he shot during this production - much of which had to be left on the cutting room floor - and edited several additional films from it covering various topics in more depth. He's releasing them in a DVD companion series that's also available on the film's official website. In any case, I highly recommend The Nature of Existence. I've seen the film twice now and it only gets better on repeat viewing. If you decide to rent or buy the film on Blu-ray or DVD, I think you'll really enjoy it.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com
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