“Wake Up” is an odd documentary about Jonas Elrod, a cinematographer who one day starts seeing visions of angels, demons, spirits, and “energy.” The film follows him over three years as he grapples with his newfound abilities. He is greatly distressed by these visions, clearly does not like talking about them, and after a battery of psychological and physical exams rule out schizophrenia or brain anomalies, he seeks the counsel of gurus, mystics, and paranormal researchers.
In one particularly spooky scene, he consults “ghost photographer” Umberto Di Grazia in Italy, who places him in a chamber where images of a woman and a wide-eyed alien are picked up while Elrod meditates. Elrod is visibly shaken when shown these photographs and refuses to discuss them further. Di Grazia, who’s had similar visions, postulates the extremely creepy theory that aliens, or “interdimensional beings” are using us remotely as “viewing pieces,” or for vicarious experiences or emotions, and when glitches in wiring occur (as happened to Elrod) we get a glimpse into what is truly going on, much like Neo with his deja vu of the cat in “The Matrix.”
I began to wonder at this point in the film, if the whole thing was a hoax. However, if a hoax, it’s a poorly done one. There’s no real narrative to the documentary, neither Elrod nor his whiny girlfriend– both aging, chain smoking hipsters– are very likable or watchable. Elrod comes across as spoiled, temperamental, irreligious and lost. In fact, the prospect of another side to terrestrial existence clearly disconcerts the quasi-atheistic couple.
Another reason I don’t believe this docu is a hoax, is because I’ve had similar, though less dramatic, experiences myself. In 2004, after a ragingly high fever, and after nearly a year of suffering from recurring infections (causing the fevers), I started having visions much like Elrod describes. I saw spirits, streaks of “energy,” and what I think might have been angels or divine beings (I never did see big-eyed aliens though). These experiences gradually faded over the course of a month and lingered, sporadically, for months after that. During the “visions” I felt no fear whatsoever, and remained skeptical even while they were happening, assuming my brain had been fried from stress, pain, and fever. Even today I’m not entirely sure what exactly I was seeing.
Elrod visits Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, a sort of summer camp for would-be mystics, which provides one of the few humorous points in the film. He also speaks to Roger Nelson, the coordinator of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory. In one experiment, they place small random 1/0 number generators (“electronic coin flippers”) at 65 locations around the globe, and notice that during emotionally fraught events, the devices stopped emitting equal numbers of 1s and 0s as they do under normal circumstances. This phenomena was seen not only on 9/11, but beginning four hours before the first tower was hit. Their theory is that humanity emits a collective “resonance” that impacts the number output.
Overall this was a somewhat sad, rambling documentary but the subject matter was so interesting that it kept me watching. Elrod’s struggle with his spiritual “abilities” versus the dearth of sustenance offered by organized religion– even the religions of the fringe variety– is poignant and at times difficult to watch, and is probably something we can all relate to on a lesser scale.