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No I don't make films, but I've studied and reviewed them a lot.

You won't find major spoilers or traditional movie reviews here, just a little philosophical preparation to enjoy some of the profoundest movies I’ve ever found. My bias? I’m a self-taught film scholar into spiritual growth. So I probably prefer a non-mainstream flick, even though I still want a clear narrative (I've enjoyed many moody art films, but without a consistent message I can't feel satisfied). Above all I love a good allegory, so fantastic elements are welcome for their ability to tell the truth. Sometimes the wildest fantasies are the most emotionally real, with mythic power to take us beyond the tired old good versus evil stereotypes into new realms of communion with the human potential, spirit guides, God, and our own souls. Ah yes, that’s the right stuff, I want more!

– Carl Johann Schroeder, Valentine’s Day 2015

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Quick Links

Introduction – my backstory for discovering the power of movies

Kumaré (2011, USA, 84 mins) – the true story of a fake guru who becomes real

Astral City: A Spiritual Journey (2010, Brazil, 103 mins) – the true story of an incredible journey into the afterlife

Dark City (1998, USA, 100 mins) – aliens control reality in experiments to observe the human soul's potential to know itself

Predestination (2014, Australia, 97 mins) – a time-travel mindbender that confronts a character with themselves and their needs for self-love

Introduction – my backstory for discovering the power of movies

MOVIES! Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re surprisingly powerful and unstoppably popular. Why? I think it’s simply because movies are the most potent experience-sharing technology that humanity has developed to date (short of reality itself, of course, which we definitely have yet to master). First came storytelling, then we got theatre, and now we have these light and sound packages that we call movies to steer us through another person’s perspective. The impact is intense – the right movie at the right time will change your life, guaranteed. As one of my teachers put it, movies are today’s equivalent of the temple experience. That is, the kind of group inspiration and energy that people used to practice in their highest and holiest spiritual gatherings is now delivered in the temple of cinema. Movies are a religious experience!

Like most people, I watched the movies that came my way, and sometimes discovered a gem. In the early 00’s, director Stephen Simon (Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come) rebelled against the Hollywood system and started writing spiritual movie reviews in preparation for founding a monthly inspirational DVD club. I immediately realized that I wanted to make a list of all my own favorite films. I thought this would take a few weeks and run to a few dozen. But being the scholarly type, within a few years my list was several thousand titles long. What’s more, I was researching films constantly, watching for hours a day and writing detailed reviews, trading rare films internationally with fellow collectors, running movie watching clubs, corresponding with filmmakers, and for a time advising the acquisitions department of Stephen Simon’s new Spiritual Cinema Circle (Stephen’s taste ultimately ran a bit different from mine). I built an extensive online database called the Mystical Movie Guide, which I stopped maintaining only when I just got too burned out. I realized that (a) I had no interest in watching the thousands of films I had accumulated, because (b) most are derivative and flawed, or just not right for me, and (c) with this project I had completed a major exercise in my own spiritual growth, by analyzing world myths and writing about storytelling. My interest in movies didn’t die, it just got absorbed back into a less obsessed, more balanced life.

I will never forget those “magical moments” when a movie touched me so deeply that I became wholly elevated and wept. I’m talking about more than suspense and vicarious thrill; there is a deep engagement of the soul made possible through cinema. And what I discovered with my movie reviewing process was that such moments didn’t have to remain mysteriously gifted to passive audiences only to fade over time, but instead could be explored, understood, and anchored for their contributions to spiritual growth. An early example for me was “Starman”, a sci-fi romance about a gentle extraterrestrial incarnating on Earth, falling in love, getting chased by government agents (of course), and saying goodbye. I sobbed ecstatically, and knew then what they say is true, that some people have lifetimes on other planets, and came to Earth to share gifts that have yet to be appreciated, except perhaps intuitively by their closest friends. And I gained this knowing from a pure experience that was not contained within but definitely triggered by a reality simulation package that we call a movie. From that spark of film appreciation I committed myself totally to becoming the Mystical Movie Guide. And so it went for about six years, as I researched and gathered the most psychologically enhancing films I could find, analyzing not only those that I loved, but also those that I wanted to love but ending up wishing I could remake to be better (don’t we all know that feeling of wanting to change the film’s ending, eh?)

Enough said - that’s my backstory that qualifies me to do what I’m doing today. I’m revisiting my movie collection to present my personal best-of lists, with a new capsule review format that doesn’t give too much away or preach judgmentally. I say that because to be honest, many of my previous reviews were too long and subjective to introduce a flick, full of spoilers and personal opinions that not everyone should have to share. Older and wiser now, I appreciate that reality is abundant with triggers to deeply encounter more of our souls, and what means the world to one person doesn’t have to mean much to another. That’s why I now include in my reviews what kind of person I was when I watched a favorite film, so you can decide if that context might work for you. You’re also encouraged to do your own homework after a viewing, to register what was most memorable for you and what that might say about where you are in your growth. You may want to write your own reviews (so many people do, and share online at places like, or find some other place to express your response to the film and thereby recognize more of your enduring self. Notice how your reaction to a film has influenced your views, your conversations, your art and your journals, or your day and night dreams. This is reality processing training after all, and glimpsing yourself in how you glimpse the world is a highly valuable transferrable skill.

And yes, someday I’ll make all those old reviews I wrote more accessible, so you can compare notes with me on the archetypes, symbols, and patterns that maybe together we saw and reacted to in some parallels. Every movie was made by someone for someone after all!

Roll ‘em!

(Carl Johann Schroeder – February 15, 2015)

Original logo for my Mystical Movie Guide database. I picked some visually interesting rare titles for the Buddha to sit upon, not necessarily my top favorites but noteworthy. With regard to my personal connections, "THOTH" is the academy award winning documentary about an otherworldly NYC performance artist I was honored to meet, "Indigo" was Stephen Simon's heartfelt first indie dramatizing the qualities of extraordinary new children, and "Under a Shipwrecked Moon" is a surreal project by ambitious independent San Francisco filmmaker and occultist Antero Alli, whom I was also honored to meet.

Kumaré (2011, USA, 84 mins)
SYNOPSIS: Vikram Gandhi is a young man from New York city whose parents came from India. After studying religion and film making, Vikram traveled widely to make a documentary about spiritual teachers including the gurus of his ancestral country. But when he became deeply disillusioned at how many self-proclaimed masters try to impress the public and out-guru one another, Vikram returned to the United States with a new documentary concept. Vikram assembles a crew and costume, practices yoga, adopts his grandmother's accent, invents silly rituals, and rents halls in Phoenix, Arizona to see how far he can get pretending to be an authentic traveling guru named Kumare. Vikram is amazed at just how quick and easy it is to collect needy followers, but the greatest surprise comes when his compassion for their humanity calls forth his own real inner guru.
SPIRITUAL LESSONS: What begins as yet another callous exposé of human gullibilty (critics compare to Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat") unpredictably shifts into a tenderly humorous and poignant tale of the human condition with its spiritual potential. Faced with the suffering of his likable best followers, Vikram realizes that more important than satisfying his own ego's desire to skewer religion is the opportunity to be honestly present and have impact in real people's lives. The lines between realities and identities blur, as Kumare tries to confess "I am not who you think I am", only to be received as the master who penetrates the illusions of maya. By hoping to let his disciples down gently, Vikram is sensing the critical nature of shame and betrayal, rites of passage which all must endure and too few survive. So as Kumare, Vikram draws upon his own religious studies and mystical insights to cobble together a new path that seeks to empower. He leads exercises in which students play the guru to tell themselves what they need to hear, and rituals to honor personal experience regardless of form, until a culminating ceremony of the great unveiling in which Vikram sheepishly drops the accent to confess his deception. The truth hurts, but fully two thirds of his students become grateful for the process, going on to lead more confident actualized lives while Vikram himself is forever changed. Although the film doesn't dare to suggest this, I wouldn't be surprised if Kumare is a real past life of Vikram. The entire stunt feels designed by a master and guided by souls, for the humbling of egos to see beneath surfaces and demonstrate that the endgame of religion is to each become our own guru, prophet of the true self that cares.
BACKSTORY: As a documentary, the film already reveals most of its own making-of. It's interesting to know that Vikram did study yoga and became a certified instructor, so the movements he invented had similarities to real historical yoga, perhaps more so than many popular modern schools which are considered minimally authentic. Ashtanga yoga for example incorporates English military exercises, wrestling, and gymnastics. Vikram's intention was always to honor the human being beyond religious dogma, and most audiences get this and find the award-winning film to be uniquely inspiring.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT: This film is real medicine for anyone who has been hurt by or angry at religion, which has got to be just about every true spiritual seeker.
WHERE TO SEE IT: major release (for a documentary), look for on streaming or dvd. More info at and

Astral City: A Spiritual Journey (2010, Brazil, 103 mins)
SYNOPSIS: A Brazilian doctor named Andre Luiz collapses at the dinner table with his family and dies at the hospital. He awakens before the gates of a heavenly city, then falls to a purgatory of darkness and torment where there are no devils, only lost dirty suffering people. He is shunned even there because, to his surprise, he is considered a suicide for have live a moral but coldly self-centered life. When he finally prays in desperation, he is rescued by a team from the beautiful city he first saw. He is ready now to learn of the truths of Earth life, that above the physical world are astral cities where people such as himself learn what it really means to be human. Andre is astounded to discover that life never ends, and there are ever higher beings ready to guide our training in wisdom and compassion for the human condition. Andre is an excellent student, joining a team of healers who assist the recently dead in the challenges of accepting their fate, attempting to communicate with loved ones back to Earth, and preparing for the next reincarnation.
SPIRITUAL LESSONS: This is it. The truth. All of it. You’ve never seen a movie like this before (“What Dreams May Come” came close but sacrificed purity for drama). The only limitation here is the perspective of the spirit Andre, whose experiences begin from his cultural lenses, just like everyone else. The purgatory of the lower astral might offend some people for appearing to be a cruel Christian hell, but the lack of devils shows that it’s really not. The astral plane is the energetic level for consciousness which rises above the physical, both figuratively and literally, but it also contains and interpenetrates the physical, just as every higher realm subsumes the lower vibrations. This interpenetration of worlds explains how higher beings can walk among us, even when our senses are not attuned to their presence, and how we also have higher levels of our own total being with us always to love us and comfort and guide, even unto God. Theosophy (as founded by Blavatsky in the late 1800’s) distilled ancient teachings to reveal seven planes of existence, the lower four comprising the human experience: physical, astral (emotional), mental, and spiritual. Lower subplanes of each plane are denser and can contain suffering, upper are more joyful and enlightened, thus the lower astral has hells while the upper is heavenly with the local paradises of all religions (the Summerlands, as spiritualists call them). I could go on and on - this movie is like a beautiful crash course in how the universe really works, especially regarding the tender feelings of love. The film is not mainstream, even if the inspirational special effects rival Hollywood. This is a finely acted foreign masterpiece with a central character whose subtle expressions say volumes for the human condition, so anyone open to their heart, mind and soul can be deeply moved.
BACKSTORY: This film didn’t come out of nowhere, although audiences outside of Brazil may be very surprised. Brazilians have great admiration for mediumship (consulting spirits), and “Astral City” was the long awaited movie adaptation of the most famous spirit-dictated novel by their most famous medium, Chico Xavier. Born 1910, Chico was a poor uneducated man who had a reputation since childhood for seeing spirits and hearing their messages. Surviving persecution and self-doubt, he became wealthy from publishing over 400 inspirational books dictated to him by spirits, and proved his humility and devotion to humanity by giving all profits to charities. Andre Luiz was Chico’s best writing partner, so the movie is actually a spirit’s autobiography! The film culminates in Andre getting permission from higher powers to channel to Chico in the early 1940’s. The novel has been acclaimed for decades, and the city itself, called “Nosso Lar” (Brazilian Portugeuse for “Our Home”) is well-known in Brazil. Nosso Lar is accurately portrayed in the film, because it was further explored by other mediums whose drawings were validated by Chico/Andre and identified as the higher plane of Rio de Janeiro. Chico himself has been elected in surveys as “history’s greatest Brazilian”, and his life story was told in a fine film entitled “Chico Xavier” (2010). So with all this pedigree, of course the film adaptation of Andre’s afterlife story was destined to be the most beloved and expensive in Brazilian history, and it became the highest grossing film of its time. Brazilian celebrities gave their all to making the masterpiece, and the great composer Philip Glass contributed a powerful soundtrack that carries the emotional intensity with awesome precision. Can you imagine Hollywood devoting this kind of effort to a purely spiritual project? “What Dreams May Come” (1998) was an anomaly and still drama soaked, driven by big script writer Richard Matheson. Heaven tourism by NDE is finally becoming big business long after “Saved by the Light” (1995), but feel-good little stories like “Heaven is for Real” (2014) can’t hold a candle to “Astral City”, even when they are true.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT: Gee, who wouldn’t benefit from seeing this film? Well of course, if you’re not ready to let go your dogmas (fundamentalist or atheist, it’s all the same), then you could have some pretty bad reactions. But for anyone who has recognized the power of movies to carry spiritual experience, and wondered when the world might be ready to go beyond the negative fantasies and escapist melodramas that have made Hollywood rich beyond reason, then wonder no more. Your time has come, see “Astral City!” The trailer alone at makes me weep everytime.
WHERE TO SEE IT: a major international release available on streaming such as More info at and

Dark City (1998, USA, 100 mins)
SYNOPSIS: There is literally a dark city where the sun never shines and the inhabitants’ memories are rearranged every midnight to fit new identities in early 20th century architecture that shapeshifts to support the latest scripted scenes. From the very start we are told by one doctor collaborator that this is the experiment of a doomed alien collective that is seeking a cure to its evolutionary dead end within the human soul, whose transcendent potentials to individuate both frighten and fascinate them. When one man is put in the role of a murderer, his psyche rebels to not only tell him he is not a killer, but to give him powers that rival the aliens. The doctor must now find a way to double-cross the aliens and train this man to be the savior that he’s been waiting for, even as the man seeks to find himself in the love of the woman who thinks she is his wife.
SPIRITUAL LESSONS: What makes this spooky cult film more than just a conspiracy theorist’s ultimate hardcore fantasy (like the violent Matrix which came a year later) is the emphasis away from action film fantasy toward art school spirituality. The style is an homage mix of film noire and German expressionism (the aliens look like pitiably soft-spoken Nosferatus); this approach is arguably overdone, but certainly sets a deep mood. So what we get is a haunting experience of the real web of darkness and lies which for millennia has trapped humanity in self-doubts of the negative ego and delayed our self-realization. This darkness truly has been manipulated by extraterrestrial forces, but they are far weaker than most people imagine, as they hope – much as the film depicts – to stay one step ahead of the humanity which it knows has something greater it lacks. The diversity of love on Earth is startlingly powerful and well known in the universe, so both evolution and transcendent guides are on our side. The way that the Dark City’s residents sometimes awaken to being more than their limited memories is indicative of soul awakening, especially across reincarnations.
BACKSTORY: The inspired story was written by the director Alex Proyas, an accomplished filmmaker known for characters enduring deep existential crises in disturbing worlds. I don’t find his other works nearly as compelling however as “Dark City”, which came early in the late 1990’s trend of films about false realities that must be questioned and transcended (before “The Matrix”, “The Thirteenth Floor”, and “eXistenZ”, but after “Nirvana” and “Open Your Eyes”). Of course such themes were in the zeitgeist already with forerunners like "They Live" (1988), and all owe much to Philip K. Dick with his fears of a manipulated humanity. So while “Dark City” is hardly original, the way it weaves many themes into one cohesive fable for human potential in the face of spiritual conspiracy is really quite stunning and unparalleled, plus the aura of World War II era betrayal is deeply resonant for modern soul searching.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT: When I first saw the film the year it came out, I was struggling to integrate memories of a spiritually awakened past life (German, no less) that showed me I was capable of so much more than society would have me perform. The film became a battle cry in my soul to remember who I really am despite the motions of a technologically placated culture that denies reincarnation. I have some concern that conspiracy minded folks could use this movie experience to fuel their feelings of persecution, but then you can’t stop a determined paranoid, and “The Matrix” became their preferred poster child. Although it shares some of the cartoonish mind-over-matter battles of "The Matrix", I believe “Dark City” promotes a deeper internal shift. Even now years later with my identity solidified so I no longer need encouragement to find myself amidst the ego lies, rewatching the final scenes I'm still moved. As the previously distrusted doctor becomes the mentor to the hero's self-actualization, we're reminded that we have all been spiritually guided throughout the lifetimes in which we seek truth. The love that allows another to grow into their own identity comes from the heart. This is the secret to open-ended evolution, a secret which the dying alien collective - in their single-minded heartless ego agendas - could not integrate. Anyone who is doing their shadow work will find keys to divine eternity shining through this brilliant dark film.
WHERE TO SEE IT: major release, no problem on streaming or dvd. More info at, or which also has a big list of virtual reality flicks

Predestination (2014, Australia, 97 mins)
SYNOPSIS: This finely acted time travelling sci-fi starts like an action film and soon reveals itself to be one of the most intimate and tender stories of any genre. A time cop from the future must set the past right, leading to his getting a job as a 1970’s bartender so he can hear the life story of the most strangely brilliant and devastated character he’s ever met. In astonishing developments, the film soon answers the question of what would it be like to meet yourself and discover more love for that self than you knew existed?
SPIRITUAL LESSONS: The story is consistent with space-time as a construct of higher beings who are leading us to give and receive the self-love that comes from our soul, for until we do there is in effect no one else but ourselves to meet in the world. I’ve never seen a plot device that so poignantly conveyed a reunion of the inner selves, including the inner man (animus), inner woman (anima), inner child, teen, and parent, and even the inner nemesis (negative ego).
BACKSTORY: This movie is actually a faithful adaptation that improves on its source, the award winning short story by author Robert Heinlein, who starting in the 1950’s uniquely transformed the science fiction genre into a place for deep transpersonal inquiry and eternal spiritual ideas with startling masterpieces like “Stranger in a Strange Land”. He wrote (clearly channeled) the story of Predestination in a single day, and called it “-All You Zombies-.“ This necessitated a title change for the film since there are no literal zombies, only the main character finally wondering who or what are all the other people in the world, given that he has met himself in so many ways that he now only knows where he comes from. The story stops there, for it is the end and beginning of all time at that point, as the fulfillment of purpose turns to a realization of the soul’s love as the basis for any existence. “I miss you dreadfully!” Absolutely haunting.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT: Anyone who is working on getting to know and work with their inner selves, either in the present lifetime or with a touch of reincarnation. Especially if this is pursued with the courage to face complications, including shadow selves that become emotionally lost and sometimes dangerous. The movie’s final tone of unresolved longing will resonate for those who have tasted self-love and want and need more. Don’t get stuck there, call for more of your own totality to comfort and guide you.
WHERE TO SEE IT: major release, no problem on streaming or dvd. More info at, or which has a big list of time travel flicks