If Being in the World were a dramatic film telling a fictional story, it would likely resemble something from one of the Soviet masters rather than something from Alfred Hitchcock or Quentin Tarantino. The unifying thread trying all the diverse characters and seemingly unconnected scenes together is Heidegger’s overriding thematic concept of discovering individual being through a process of communal participation. Anyone conditioned to look for the standard narrative even within documentary form could well get lost or bored and, ironically, fail to fully participate in consciousness-expanding experience precisely by falling back on social conventions of accepting limited roles. This is the difference between mere entertainment and fascinating entertainment.
By linking philosophy to the mastery of tasks like Flamenco dancing and Creole cooking, the film appears to using visual cues to underscore a message consistent with the idea that individual being in the world is inextricably linked to the willingness to accept or reject circumstantial role-playing. Nothing that is presented here is something that could not be replicated via technological simulation in some form or another. The point is not some sort of Luddite rejection of technological immersion, but rather a celebration of communal immersion. If mistakes were made by anyone here, the definition of what qualifies as a mistake needs to be revised. The only mistake possible for someone like Lindsey Benner would be accepting as gospel truth the widespread social rumor that vaudeville is dead.
While reading the textual motivation of the documentary would be difficult without an awareness of Heidegger’s Being and Time, the endlessly infinite potential for learning from experience that draws Hubert Dreyfus deeper and deeper into the ultimate meaning of his favorite philosopher could still reach even the most resistant of viewers. Subconscious understanding and subliminal intuition is at play in the cinematic construction of the documentary. Scenes interplay with each other on a distinctly non-linear and subtextual level of apprehension that seems perfectly congruous with Phenomenology.