Philip Gardiner’s The Order of the Alchemists takes Reality Films to a new level in terms of both production values and content.

As a writer who enjoys words and analyzing different styles of writing and speaking, I was quite impressed by the narration.

On the arts side, the CGI (computer generated imagery) is a definite step up from earlier productions. And the soundtrack for this DVD is simply beautiful.

Gardiner himself seems to be something of a modern day Gnostic or, at least, an advocate for Gnosticism. But he’s certainly not lost in the clouds as some New Age enthusiasts seem to be. Instead, this film showcases his considerable abilities as a sometimes edgy but never too jagged communicator of ideas.

The DVD begins by looking at the 11th century bigotry, as Gardiner puts it, of the Roman Catholic Crusades. Gardiner is critical of a Catholic Church that, so he implies, was chiefly concerned with the acquisition of riches and power through means of unsavory aggression.

While watching this part of the video and writing in my notepad,“he points the finger at the Roman Catholic Church” Gardiner soon after adds that Islam, historically speaking, was not exempt from succumbing to the fighting instinct.

But the Catholic power brokers, Gardiner says, started it all.

After this bold kickoff the narrative turns to the Portuguese nobleman Manuel Pinto da Fonseca (1681-1773). Here Gardiner provides a visually rich portrayal of this curious man’s quest for political power alongside his pursuit of the alchemical Elixir of Life.

Throughout his account Gardiner develops a controversial theory dealing with alleged connections between the longstanding Knights of Malta and an assortment of contemporary world powers.

But to avoid a spoiler I won’t reveal Gardiner’s unsettling conclusions.

Suffice it to say that I found The Order of the Alchemists a provocative investigation into some hidden histories that, for all we know, just might need more telling.

–MC

Updated from May 1, 2008 with minor stylistic revisions