The Spirit Molecule (2010)

Disclaimer: I’ve never done dimethyltryptamine (DMT), I’ve never even smoked pot. I come to the world of drug use as a complete outsider. So, in no way can I speak to the accuracy or validity of the experiences described in this documentary. I have however read, Dr. Rick Strassman’s book on DMT, an extremely powerful psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in each of our bodies. Strassman, through his research and observation, speculates that the intense, otherworldly visions and sensations described by those under the influence of DMT may have a correlation to mystic, religious, and near-death experiences, not to mention stories of alien abduction.

I’m intrigued by all of this, but The Spirit Molecule, as a film, serves merely as a primer on the subject matter, just grazing the surface of the scientific understanding of DMT and coming no where near recreating the supposed life altering encounters with the unknown described throughout the film (and the book). Rather than rewiring our brain or giving us new eyes with which to see the world, The Spirit Molecule simply stands as a long string of talking heads describing their experiences while under the influence of DMT. Interspersed between these testimonials are scientific and cultural attempts to explain the effects of DMT. Much of this is done beneath wild psychedelic imagery that feels all to artificial, like computer screen-savers pushed to the extreme.

Most maddening of all are the small interludes with Joe Rogan, a comic once known mostly for hosting a show that challenged contestants to eat gross things and perform wild stunts. Rogan often comes across as a man’s man, a real bro. Here he’s asked to play the role of a Rod Serling like questioner, someone encouraging us to keep an open mind to the seemingly implausible. Sadly, I’ve heard Rogan, elsewhere, speak wonderfully about his own use of DMT. I only wish the filmmaker had let Rogan recount those tales here.

All in all, the documentary is highly informative and I hope it gets people curious about DMT and renewed research into psychedelic research. I guess, I was simply looking for something more mind-altering, something that would embody the actual experience of the compound. Perhaps, such an experience is outside the scope of cinema. Though, I am more and more certain that the film Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees is influenced by a DMT experience.

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