Helplessly fruity and cumulatively hypnotic, What on Earth? is an itinerant journey through the world of crop circles and the community devoted to their study. Like several of the philosophers, engineers, and occult enthusiasts she interviews, director Suzanne Taylor describes her interest in crop circles—the phenomenon of large swaths of farmland being inexplicably imprinted with enormous, geometrical patterns—as a vocational calling. Looking for answers, she sets out for the south of England, home of 300 crop-circle incidents a year. Framed in a series of casual chats, Taylor’s subjects make interesting suppositions (invoking particle physics, higher consciousness, and the laws of geometry), but their credibility is sometimes undermined by editorial drift and a beseeching New Age soundtrack. Majestic aerial shots of dozens of these circles reinforce the inquiry: Benevolent transmission from another realm or elaborate tractor art? Is Taylor’s mystical theorizing the forefront of scientific thought, or the same old evidence of humanity’s ancient attraction to the notion of a higher power? Several people describe willing the circles—also said to have healing powers—into being, and finding comfort in them, a contention that’s both a natural extension of the neo-physics’ energy field theory and a perfect metaphor for the opiate of the masses.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 20, 2011