A television adaptation of Michael Frayn's celebrated and award-winning stage play about the meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 Copenhagen. At this time the... See full summary »

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Magrethe Bohr
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A television adaptation of Michael Frayn's celebrated and award-winning stage play about the meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 Copenhagen. At this time the young Heisenberg was leading a faltering German research program into nuclear energy, while the middle-aged and apparently isolated Bohr was in contact with allied agents, and still held a position of great influence in the nuclear physics research community. After the meeting the two men put different interpretations or impressions of why Heisenberg requested the meeting, and what he hoped to gain from it, a theme which mirrors the ambiguity of the "Copenhagen" interpretation widely used in quantum physics. Did Heisenberg go to the avuncular Bohr to seek his blessing for his role in nuclear research? Why did Heisenberg concentrate on the development of a nuclear reactor, and not perform the calculations which would show that a bomb could be made to work via a fast-neutron reaction in Uranium 235? ... Written by Simon Shearn

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Drama | History | War

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27 September 2002 (UK)  »

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Copenhage  »

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Trivia

The original Broadway production of "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn opened at the Royale Theater on April 11, 2000, ran for 326 performances and won the 2000 Tony Award for the Best Play. Michael Frayn's script was used as the basis of the screenplay for the movie version. See more »

Goofs

When Bohr digresses on the fission chain reaction, he indicates that one fissioned uranium atom is enough to move a speck of dust, then "until eventually after, let's say eighty generations, two hundred and eighty specks of dust have been moved, enough specks of dust to constitute an entire city." Rather than 280, the number is 2^80, as the result of eighty doublings (indicating the rather important carat exponent symbol was left out of the script or omitted by the actor). The number reads as two to the eightieth power... about a trillion trillion. See more »

Connections

Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #18.3 (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Well written and pretty interesting even if it is hard work here and there for the uninitiated
2 September 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Occupied Copenhagen during the second world war is the stage for the meeting of colleagues Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Young Werner has come to talk to Niels. The former is leading the faltering German research programme into nuclear energy while the latter is the acknowledged as the leading expert in nuclear fission by the physics community. Years after the event this play brings Niels, Werner and Margrethe Bohr back together again to discuss their different interpretations of their meetings and their relative roles within the development of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

Although this is not the most accessible play or subject, it is still a rather engaging film. My knowledge of the development of nuclear theory physics could be comfortably fitted onto the back of a postage stamp (and not one of those bigger, commemorative ones either) and I had never heard of any of these people or the theories they discussed in this film. But yet I understood the majority of it and found myself easily carried along by the dialogue. I imagine it would have been more interesting if I had had this knowledge but as it was it was still interesting. But it wasn't gripping or that engaging. By having the characters look backwards together the script does a good job of explaining the discussions and their wider ramifications to a degree. I say "to a degree" because I thought it could have done it better for someone like me, someone who knows nothing about anything when they press play for the first time.

The dialogue is well written though, varying between explaining the theory and debating the morals well without ever making it seem forced – again a strength of the "looking back" approach. Craig and Rae impress in their delivery but I would have liked more feeling to run through them. Annis stands up well with both the men and she is used well to provide insight from outside of the two main characters. Davies' direction is pretty good and retains the feel of a play without restricting the locations too much or making it feel stage bound.

Overall then an interesting film but one that will have limited appeal and I understand why. It does well to make it accessible to viewers not familiar with the subject, although it still does have room for improvement as I wanted it to impact me more than it did. Worth a look though as something different which is well written and pretty interesting.


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