Documentary About Werner Erhard and the Est Training

A new documentary about Werner Erhard and the Est Training and it’s legacy is coming out soon. The video below is a link to a promotional trailer.

The following is a review of the film by Laurence Platt:

A film by Robyn Symon
Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
One of the many remarkable aspects of Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard  is its unbiased approach. It pulls no punches. It hides no skeletons. It opens all closets and allows you free access with almost voyeuristic  freedom and intensity to Werner’s private, personal, and family life. It also has extensive coverage of Werner’s work over the last thirty six years from the est  training to his ideas which are the basis for the Landmark Forum. It features many figures who have worked with Werner over the years, celebrities who have participated in his work, and titans from established academia and the blue chip  business world who have incorporated Werner’s ideas into their methodologies with enormous yet unheralded impact.

But the microscope here, the scrutiny of the project, is on Werner Erhard himself. And a question I asked myself as I watched is this: Will it work? Will it create an open, evenhanded forum in which Werner’s magnum opus  and its current form such as it exists in the world today, can be evaluated? Or will this approach backfire and fry  its subject, like an ant caught by a child unceremoniously in the sun’s intensity focused through a magnifying glass?

It’s an approach which takes brass and boldness, and could quickly devolve into a total fiasco. This isn’t a feel good  hymn to a man who has in transformation created, some say, the most powerful experience of their lives, and for others is nothing less than a slick snake oil salestype charlatan  who’s simply in it for the money. This is documentary film making at it’s best. The depths it probes of simple human foibles as well as sheer heroism are arduous to take in at times. Two mantras  meandered through my mind as I watched, not knowing what to expect next, fascinated. The first was: “He who is without sin cast the first stone”. The second was: “There but for the grace of God go I”. It’s riveting viewing which is sure to be as controversial as it is brilliant.

The fire is held unflinchingly to the soles of Werner Erhard’s life and work. The unspoken questions the movie poses are quite clear. Is what was said about Werner Erhard on 60 Minutes  true? If not, why wasn’t it ever fully recanted? Why did Werner Erhard leave the USA? What’s he up to these days? And, arguably the most poignant question, what’s the validity of Werner Erhard’s work and legacy today and for the future if even some small fraction of what’s been said about him in the full frontal attack were true?

There’s an interesting moment in the film when a noted San Francisco Chronicle reporter confesses to and addresses what we all know: the media delights in making  heroes, and then delights equally in crucifying  them. Open season. No hunting license required.

What’s also interesting is how the film poses questions without fully answering them. This is not an oversight. It’s deliberate. You’re left with no choice but to come to your own conclusions based on coverage of Werner’s work bringing the possibility of transformation to the religious deadlocked conflicts in northern Ireland and the Middle East, to Madison Avenue advertising, to mainstream business, and to the political arena. Werner’s work is now, as he promised when he started it in 1971, melded and merged with where we come from  in our thinking and principles today in these key areas of life. While no attempt is made by the producer to credit  Werner with this enormous impact, Robyn Symon leaves you making up your own mind whether or not this legacy is authentic. You’re left to decide for yourself whether or not what’s been absorbed by colleges, business schools, and corporate management teams et al  are indeed the results of ideas derived by Werner and made available through his seminars. No claim is made by Werner that this is true. And yet clearly the odds against it not being true are extremely high. Mainstream technology and terminology like this doesn’t simply arise by coincidence or by accident. One hundred monkeys bouncing around on one hundred typewriters for thirty six years will not  write Macbeth.

It would have been too easy for the producer to find people who would only say great things about Werner Erhard. But to her credit, Robyn Symon gives free rein and total access to some of Werner’s harshest critics. This, I thought, is the mettle of Robyn Symon. Committed as she is to a true documentary, she doesn’t simply provide one side of the story. Far from it. It’s oddly difficult to watch the hospitality and grace with which she gives a platform to those who would totally negate Werner’s contribution to humanity. You watch, fascinated, as his harshest critics get to speak, are never interrupted, are well lit, and are shown in their  best possible light – a favor they themselves have denied Werner on so many occasions. Again, you’re left to make up your own mind.

What I personally made up when I watched this approach, intrigued by its boldness, audacity, and sheer bravery, is how Werner himself would say it doesn’t mean anything, and it doesn’t mean anything that it doesn’t mean anything. Based on that, even critics, even opponents, even enemies  get the opportunity to express themselves with dignity and in honor. How big is that? I thought. And what, then, could be the response from such enemies? “You did me a terrible disservice: you made me look too  great.”? In this way, the film creates an open forum – for everyone – and totally extinguishes any suggestion of bias.

We see Werner tirelessly covering the planet. We see him at home. We see him at a sidewalk bistro  in Paris. We see him at the Eye  in London. We see him in Japan (and listen to him, with great dignity and compassion, shred the myth that the Japanese people are stoic). We see him with his mother Dorothy, just a boy and his Mom – the love between them is tender and palpable. We see him sitting cross legged, yogi-like on a beach (I liked that touch particularly). We even see him, Gary Cooper-like, walking off alone into the sunset.

Essentially what Robyn Symon presents us with, over and over and over, is the humanity of Werner Erhard, and you  get to decide: Are the foibles of his life simply the results of a colossal ego run amok? Or are they the results of carefully made priorities and choices when, given the limit of twenty four hours only in every day, we each have to choose what our lives will be about?

In watching Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard, you get to be with  Werner and to stand with him intimately in soul baring nakedness as he speaks candidly about his choices, his failures, and his successes. The truth isn’t always palatable – not Werner’s, not yours, not mine. Especially  not mine. Yet in the space of Werner’s bone numbing heroic honesty, transformation comes. It moved me to tears.

See this film. And bring your friends.

Ten stars.

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