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shadows_of_paradise.jpgDirector: Sebastian Lange
Writer: Sebastian Lange

Review by Gilbert Seah

SHADOWS OF PARADISE is a not-your-usual documentary about Transcendental Meditation. It answers the question how do TM’s adherents continue when a spiritual luminary dies.

With intimate access to two of Transcendental Meditation’s new leaders – iconic filmmaker David Lynch and dedicated disciple Bobby Roth – director Sebastian Lange documents the Movement’s metamorphosis following the passing of its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Having himself grown up within the Movement, director Sebastian Lange approaches his subject through an introspective and essayistic lens, seeking to reconcile TM’s present-day incarnation with the teachings and practices that have shaped his worldview. The film documents the star-studded galas hosted by Lynch’s Manhattan-based foundation to a perilous cliffside cave in Madhya Pradesh.

Word of warning: The inspiration of the teachings propaganda-d in this film originated from Guru Dev. Guru Dev lived in a distant cave, north of India and dismissed normal life for meditation. So, this film might not be for everyone. In fact many will likely laugh at the film’s teachings, so if you are not with open mind, it is best to skip reading this review as well as the film – no insult to the person involved. Even if one is of open mind, there is a lot to take and believe in this film. Before reading this review, please bear in mind that this reviewer is no proponent of transcendental meditation (TM). This reviewer is a nonbeliever of TM, but will try to have an open mind in reviewing the film and in the examination of the subject.

Director David Lynch is a champion of the cause of TM. He has made MULHOLLAND DRIVE, a film critically acclaimed as one of the greatest films of all time. It is a film that is as weird as it is brilliant and covers multiple layers of consciousness. But I wonder now if Lynch has not lost some of his marbles. His hairstyle in the film – a streaked white coiffe does not help his looks either. Other celebrities involved whose presence are seen on screen include Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Lynch has a special ‘Lynch Foundation’ that collects money and donations for the cause.
Director Lange is quick to point out that TM is neither a religion, cult, government or industry. But he fails to define what TM really is.

For a film that champions TM, there is little about what TM actually is. It is only near the end of the film when the audiences sees a practical illustration of TM as executed by both Roth and Lynch. The director of the film Sebastian Lange is also a believer. His goal, which forms the climax of the film is to understand TM as well. His quest is to search for this remote cave that both Maharashi and Guru Dev spent years in. But it is reputed that the cave is swamped with bees and many who have ventured there have ended up in hospital.


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