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WGUC Reviews

Examined Life

Examined Life
Sphinx Productions
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas

Life is complicated. What we do, how we do it, what we think about it. At times, it seems like complications are taking over every minute of every day, to the point where thought is too time consuming, and we just act and react. Philosophy is, to most of us, an abstract idea for which there is no room in our busy hustle and bustle existence.

If you are looking for something to steer you toward the thoughtful and contemplative, there’s a documentary just for you. It’s called Examined Life, obviously inspired by Plato’s famous quote that “the unExamined Life is not worth living.” Athens, Georgia filmmaker Astra Taylor, a student of philosophy as well as a filmmaker, has gathered a group of some of the world’s most renowned thinkers. But rather than make the standard “talking heads round table” type of documentary, she interviews these philosophers individually, and always in, or surrounded by, motion. They are walking, riding through the streets of New York, journeying through the Toronto airport to catch a flight, which is to suggest that rather than sit around talking about ideas, let’s move forward toward implementing them…for the betterment of all concerned. It’s an interesting concept that also helps keep the film moving forward. While we’re listening to the ideas being offered, we also have the opportunity to view the surroundings in which these scholars are being filmed…streetscapes, people walking by, strolling by a lake or in the park. Many of the scenes are accompanied by some interesting music, although it’s not credited in any of the press materials. Too bad, as it does enhance what’s happening on the screen

The nine subjects of Examined Life embrace a variety of philosophies. Some seem down-to-earth and easy to comprehend; others are just “out there” somewhere; while others are so deep, almost convoluted, that it might be a plus to have subtitles explaining what they are actually talking about. And as with any group of people, you will not agree with, or appreciate the musings of, all of them.

Examined Life is not for everyone. If you consider yourself a thinker, a discerning individual with a thirst for enlightenment in the areas of morals, ethics, and the like, it’s right up your alley. If you and those in your circle love to dissect a film and exchange ideas about what you each got from seeing it, it’s a must see. I hate to use the term “academic,” which implies “boredom,” but it is academic, as well as thought provoking. And as one of the interviewees says, “Boredom can be an interesting reaction.”

The unrated documentary Examined Life opened Friday at the Esquire Theatre, likely for just one week, so you may want to hurry if it’s your kind of film.


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