Director: Bernt Amadeus Capra
Running time: 112
Two friends (a politician and a poet) go for a walk in a French castle, and converse. They meet a woman (physicist) on their walk, and she joins their conversation.
The first thing that comes to everyone's mind when they see or hear about this film is My Dinner with Andre. Andre was also a philosophical film, which, just like Mindwalk was nothing but dialogue. Well, it's no My Dinner with Andre. But it's not completely awful, either.
Although Andre's characters each stood for a different cause, they came with personalities that made them human. Mindwalk's characters, on the other hand, are pure, uncut archetypes. We've got the politician (ex-presidential nominee), the scientist (fanatic liberal) and the (starving) poet. Sam Waterson was perfectly cast as the politician. I found Liv Ullmann to be annoying. John Heard convinced me he was a poet, but could have been better if he had more lines.
The uber-liberal, slightly feminist, scientist character took the movie down quite a few notches. I found the conversation that occurred before her entrance to be interesting. The conversation did get interesting, even after she took complete control of it, but it lost all signs of discussion, and became a debate between her and the politician.
Another unfortunate consequence of her arrival is further lack of dialogue from the poet character. A dialogue with three characters is much more chaotic than a two-character dialogue, especially if the characters all have contrasting views. This problem is solved by letting the poet be easily convinced by the scientist's ideas (while the politician argues with her) and since he's lapping up everything she says, he doesn't have to do anything more than nod, or compliment her argument. The politician slowly accepts her statements, but not without fighting back. He was a realist, I tended to find myself argeeing with him. And Sam Waterson was born for the role.
Fritjof Capra (author of The Tao of Physics) co-wrote the screenplay, which has a lot of ideas from his book The Turning Point. The dialogue and conversation topics of the first 2/3rds of the movie are interesting, but in retrospect, they all were put there to guide the viewer to understand the final concept of the movie: systems theory.
The scene that most disappointed me was the scene in which the scientist has to explain the large empty space in an atom to the poet and the politician. They played sophisticated characters up until that point, people who would know extremely basic science. The truth is, they didn't need to know how atoms worked; the uneducated, unsophisticated audience did. We are slowly guided to the climax of the discussion, and are given an elementary lesson on systems theory. In the end, the audience learns more than the characters. And I don't like it. It becomes a lecture, rather than a film. Towards the end, I felt it was almost a sales pitch for the strange new science of systems theory. My whole opinion on this might have been different, if the scientist didn’t act so infallible about the whole systems theory, and had treated it like the theory it is, rather than an unquestionable truth.
Most of the review thus far has been in a negative tone. There are positive aspects of the film. One aspect that I absolutely loved was the scenery. The French castle Mont St. Michel was the perfect location choice. The characters wander around the ins and the outs of this beautiful castle while debating about life. This is a much different approach from Andre's restaurant meal, and probably the only aspect where I found Mindwalk to be equal to Andre.
From the beginning (the title...) to the very end, Mindwalk is slightly pretentious, and a bit too preachy. Nevertheless, many of the topics discussed are thought provoking. If you want to see an intelligent film, and you haven't seen My Dinner with Andre yet, see that instead. If you've seen Andre, and you liked it, I'll recommend Mindwalk. If you've seen Andre, and you didn't like it, you won't like Mindwalk any better; It's just more talking.