Educational 'MindWalk' has a good message but is much to cerebral

On movies

November 13, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''MindWalk,'' opening today at The Senator Theatre, is almost mind numbing.

Only those who are professionally and totally involved with the ecological movement will have the patience to sit through it, and even then, they may fidget.

''MindWalk'' is based on ''The Turning Point,'' a book written by physicist Fritjof Capra of Austria. Fritjof and Floyd Byars wrote the screenplay. Bernt Capra, Fritjof's brother, directed the film. The three principals do nothing more than talk.

Fritjof's thesis, one that will surprise very few people, is that ''nothing exists in isolation and separated from everything else.'' All things, ''objects, the sciences, patterns of thought,'' are interconnected.

The producers originally hoped to film the movie in a series of rooms, each one serving as a metaphor for the continuing discussion. Eventually, they settled on Mont-St-Michel, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. There, they let a clock and a torture room serve as springboards for discussion.

Centuries ago, Mont-St-Michel, an islet on the Normandy coast, began attracting people from all over Europe, pilgrims visiting the abbey ''in search of enlightenment and spiritual renewal.''

In ''MindWalk,'' the pilgrims are an American senator, played by Sam Waterston, an American writer and poet, played by John Heard, and a physicist, played by Liv Ullmann, who has resigned her position at an American university.

The poet lives in Paris. The physicist seems to have an apartment in the abbey. The three leads also dine at the abbey, which may come as a surprise to those of us who have visited there. But then no one, particularly the producers, wants us to take any of this literally.

''MindWalk'' is a talk movie, pure but not so simple. When the woman joins a conversation between the two men, the three of them go on about the colossal consumption in the United States, the deforestation in South America, the atom bomb, the scientist and his responsibility to the rest of the world, and other related topics, all of them underlying ''the hypothesis that earth is a single living organism,'' all this according to information provided by the producers.

The three principals also talk about matter as related to density, and at one point, the physicist describes the composition of the atom in language all can understand. In this instance, the conversation is a good lesson in physics. People like this should be teaching in high school, all high schools.

All this information, however, is not the kind you would expect to hear in a movie theater, not one that caters to the general audience.

Ullmann's physicist has a daughter with whom she has little communication, and that seems to be an underlying text in this film, the subtle suggestion that the woman, who knows so much about interdependence of the inanimate, has great difficulty relating on a very personal level.

Ullmann makes the physicist as appealing as possible, but when her daughter tells her not to bore her friends to death, you do laugh.

When Waterston and Heard walk and talk with the physicist, they do well, too. Well, Heard also has to recite some poetry, and that's a bit difficult, but then this is that kind of film.

All three people speak as though they are walking textbooks. Natural, it is not.

The best that may be said of the film is that it is educational, but that may be the worst of it, too. One must be deeply involved with the ecological to attend a film of this sort. One must be prepared to listen to things he already knows, editorial couched in preachy context. That's what ''MindWalk'' does, it preaches. Of course, all films preach but never this much.


''MindWalk'' will remain at the Senator through Nov. 19.


** Two Americans and a European physicist meet at Mont-St-Michel, where they become involved in deep discussions about life and ecological ruination.

CAST: Sam Waterston, Liv Ullmann, John Heard, Ione Skye.

DIRECTOR: Bernt Capra.


RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes.

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