33 & Beyond
movie review of 33 & Beyond: The Royal Art of Freemasonry
Written and directed by Johnny Royal
Cast: Johnny Royal, Robert Doan, Tom Driber, Ernest Chapman, Chris Sanders, Adam W. Wolf, John Eberle, Matt Dove, Robert J Davis, James Tressner, John Cooper III, R. Stephen Doan, Greg Cherry, Joseph Kindoll, Douglas Roberts, Daniel Hanttula, Adam Kendall, Ryan Driber, Danny Parker, Roni Zulu
review by Reviewer Rob
[“33 & BEYOND: THE ROYAL ART OF FREEMASONRY” opens in Los Angeles tomorrow night, Sunday, December 17 at Laemmle’s Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. The red carpet will begin at 6:30 P.M. after that the film’s start is at 7:30 P.M. promptly.]
There’s an interesting character in mythology that has come to symbolize secrecy. Among the pantheon of ancient gods is Harpocrates. His image is that of a young boy with his finger to his mouth as if he’s signaling the viewer to be silent. The history and interpretations of this ancient Egyptian god and his different Greek and Roman iterations is long and I won’t get too into it here, but his image was sometimes used in meeting halls where confidential business was discussed in the ancient world. Often there was an image of a rose above the door as well, the rose also being a symbol of secrecy.
Anyways, this is a movie review not a history essay and I said I wouldn’t get too into that. But in 33 & Beyond: The Royal Art of Freemasonry, this documentary about a system that holds secrets, the image of someone making the fingers-to-the-lips “silence” signal comes up more than once.
It’s a well made doc, with many talking head expert interviews contributing throughout. As a movie watcher with a keen interest in documentaries of both recent and ancient history, I was hoping for more about the esoteric roots of Freemasonry in Western Civilization. Don’t look for any conspiracy defense here either. Johnny Royal didn’t waste a frame on any of that. This is more of a letter of recognition to the august body of brethren he belongs to. In it director Royal take the viewer through the steps from newly minted initiate to the thirty-second Degree, explaining in detail what each step symbolizes and the transformations they are intended to teach and promote in a man. There’s some personal touches from the cast such as when Johnny Royal (who appears throughout) describes how he lost his fathers and afterward found his way to Freemasonry, gaining needed guidance as a young man and widow’s son.
Freemasonry is described as being relatively non-judgmental of initiates’ different religious backgrounds, requiring only an applicant to have a belief in God and an afterlife (also that you’re not a felon). One of the interviewees describes how energy can not be created or destroyed, implying when something dies the energy contained therein goes somewhere else. That has to be perhaps the broadest description of a belief in an afterlife one can hold.
This documentary is valuable if you want an introduction to the basic structure of Freemasonry. Aside from touching on their penchant for secrecy — or tradition of keeping ways of identifying other Masons “confidential,” as it’s said in the film — 33 & Beyond goes well into the various degrees a member can attain, from Entered Apprentice on up to 32° “Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret”. The fabled Thirty-Third Degree is mentioned as a kind of ceremonial designation that a few fortunate Masons earn. Here is the strength and apparent purpose of this authorized documentary: It demystified the levels of the organization to an extent that a curious outsider with no real knowledge can feel satisfied with. If you’re looking for a great historical compendium of how the Masons helped shape the formation and politics of the United States you may leave unfulfilled. There’s no biographical profiles of any of the countless figures throughout history that have been Freemasons, and certainly no attempt at diminishing any of the shadowy and intriguing conspiracy theories that have popped up about them.
The world premier was Friday, October 13, at The Grand Lodge of California Freemasons in San Francisco. But as mentioned at the top, 33 & BEYOND: THE ROYAL ART OF FREEMASONRY plays in L.A. tomorrow night, Sunday, December 17 at Laemmle’s Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. Red carpet starts at 6:30 p.m. and the film starts at 7:30.