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This is a superb drama, combining a well-presented scientific and
historical explication of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity
alongside a gripping portrait of the moral dilemmas that scientists
have to struggle with as they try to reconcile the demands of country
The twin leads British scientist Arthur Eddington (David Tennant) and Einstein (Andy Serkis) lead very different lives but face not only similar scientific opposition and derision but also similar pressures to back their country's efforts to win the First World War. Tennant shakes off the Dr Who expectations in pointing up the problems of a gay pacifist Quaker who tries to prove the new-fangled theories of 'enemy' scientist Einstein a theory especially dangerous because it undermines the ordered view of the universe created by English scientist Isaac Newton. Einstein's complicated private life is compounded by his revulsion at fellow scientists' work in developing poison gas. Both Tennant and Serkis get right into the skin of their characters - two brilliant actors on top form.
The drama brings over very effectively the transition from the comfortable life of the scientists in pre-war Cambridge and Switzerland to the tragedies of war. Jim Broadbent as Sir Oliver Lodge and Donald Sumpter as Max Planck lead the scientific establishments in Cambridge and Berlin as they pervert their scientific beliefs to condone mass killing on a scale never before seen. The main female roles have rather less to do, but Rebecca Hall as Eddington's sister, Lucy Cohu as Einstein's abandoned wife and Jodhi May as his mistress all add an extra warmth to the production and help to avoid the danger of focusing only on clever men using symbols and formulae to bemuse their colleagues (and the audience).
The settings Cambridge, Berlin and West Africa, where Eddington photographed a total eclipse of the sun to prove the Einstein's theory was right provide a powerful backdrop to the human drama, making it all the more believable. All in all, a very successful and informative BBC and HBO drama that maintains tension and excitement throughout.
I am not a scientist, I have no scientific bent. Nor have I ever studied the odd couple pairing of Einstein and Eddington. I simply have the greatest of respect for David Tennant as an actor, and so watched this film with an eye to Mr Tennant's performance. However, my expectations were more than met with this tribute to an early 19th century event, which changed the course of science as it had been known before. Evidently, Einstein, a German born scientist with 'crazy' ideas, had moved to Switzerland to marry and raise a family, while Arthur Eddington, a gay, Quaker, pacifist, was just finishing up his years at Cambridge. Lauded as an heir to Sir Isaac Newton, Mr. Eddington had a seat at Cambridge, despite his being a pacifist, much frowned on by the many Lords and gentlemen who had donated a son to the 1st World War. Especially as the battle of Ypres raged, and 15,000 were lost to chlorine gas, Mr. Eddington's passivity rubbed raw the sensibilities of a nation against Germany in particular. Meanwhile, Einstein had been lured to Berlin, in hopes that his theories would provide war capable weapons. As it happened, Einstein was against the war, and did not wish that his theories be used as weapons. And so, given his 'relinquishment' of his German residency, as a 'Citizen of the World', his life was reigned in by the German powers, and he became unable to have a voice in his community, be it scientific or personal. And of course, during World War 11, he was excoriated as a Jew, and barely fled with his life. The US wanted his knowledge, and of course, eventually, the atomic bomb was invented, based on his theory of relativity. But that was many years after this moment in time. Arthur Eddington discovered a variation in the known elipse of Mercury, and with the help of a German family he had rescued from a violent English protest, sent a translated letter to Einstein explaining his new theory. Einstein was unable to answer him, due to the German soldiers denying his entrance to his only post box. However, Eddington and his scientific companion convinced Cambridge University to pay for a trip to Africa, in order to prove a new theory on the relationship of the stars to the sun, during a total eclipse. Einstein, of course, went on to incredible fame and notoriety. Eddington, however, did not pursue fame, and faded into obscurity. This is a wonderful film, and trust me - you needn't know science to understand what this adventure is all about. Enjoy!
The best historical drama since Longitude, Einstein and Eddington not only reveals the extraordinary political and emotional drama of a break through moment in history, but shows that scientists are uniquely human. It is science and art that elevate us above the banal and the animal, and unites us in the common cause of the future. War is an aberration, like cancer. Truth is the only goal that is worth achieving. This film is a great and happy display of the supremacy of truth and the real conquest of reality, not by force of arms but by force of brains. As John Brunner wrote in his apocalyptic novel The Shockwave Rider, (according to Angus Porter) "This is the third stage of human social evolution. First we had the legs race. Then we had the arms race. Now we're going to have the brain race. ... And, if we're lucky, the final stage will be the human race." As long as there are men like Eddington and Einstein, I do not have the slightest doubt that there will be a human race, and we can all be proud to be part of it.
Einstein and Eddington is a very entertaining TV movie: well written,
with decent cinematography and above average acting. David Tennant and
Andy Serkis give really good performances as the younger Eddington and
Einstein respectively and the remainder of the cast are outstanding.
That said, I would like to comment on the misconceptions about
Eddington's sexual preference and the ongoing debate about that. What
sex has to do with the storyline is a mystery. Perhaps the
homosexuality hinted at in the movie is there to gain a wider audience.
In any event, the movie's intimation about Eddington's sexuality and
the subsequent debate needs to be addressed.
Everything I have read or was told about Arthur Stanley Eddington indicates that he was a painfully shy, genteel, devout Quaker and an active pacifist whose sexual preferences are UNKNOWN. To suppose that Eddington, or any other male for that matter, is a homosexual because they never married or died young, is an exercise in jackass fallacy; probably the most stupid deduction I have ever heard proposed. Such logic would also make every woman who never married or died young a lesbian. This is really dumb thinking, folks.
Other posters and commentators have jumped on dialogue from the movie e.g., Eddington saying to his sister: "I really loved him!" as being prima facie evidence that Eddington admitted to his sister that he was a homosexual. First, for a person to declare that they love someone of the same sex, does not presume they are in a homosexual relationship with that person or that they are homosexual lovers. Second, people forget that these words were never said by Eddington himself and that they are actually just words put into an actor's mouth by a writer or a director. The fact is Eddington's sexual preference is UNKNOWN. It was never mentioned, indicated or hinted at by Eddington, his sister, his other family members, his friends or his colleagues at any time before, during or after his death. I don't understand the logic or rationale that because he never mentioned it, confirms he must be a homosexual. If Eddington was a homosexual it would be most unusual for him not to indicate this in his personal papers because homosexuals almost always leave behind some clear indication, or even proof, of their sexual preference. I cannot think of one homosexual who didn't. And Eddington didn't. Claiming Eddington is a homosexual sounds like just a lot of homosexual wishful thinking to me.
Sadly, this inference in the movie and subsequent debate really deters from the terrific story of Eddington's (definitely heterosexual and academic) relationship with Einstein and the problems he encountered trying to prove Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. This movie would have been more dramatic if the makers had pursued Eddington's (and Einstein's) endeavours to find a repeatable scientific method experiment which would prove the Theory of General Relativity supersedes Newton's Theory of Gravity, as well as providing greater detail of the reactions of the German and English scientists and their inter-relationships with Eddington and Einstein. Eddington's battle with the Royal Society was monumental and went on for many years. Details of the science and the scientific debate would have made a more exciting and interesting movie and far more satisfying than having Eddington's character race his bicycle along a road next to a train, with a strange expression on his face, in order to bid farewell to his (undeclared) lover. It's just silly. While the movie clearly hints at Eddington's alleged homosexuality, it glosses over the Einstein's heterosexual aberration in his courting and marrying his first cousin - she was a first cousin his mother's side and a second cousin on his father's side of the family, a double whammy which gives new meaning to Einstein's relativity! Then again, I'm thankful because it really doesn't belong nor does it add to the real story. If the drama of the scientific debate had been followed more vigorously, instead of raising the homosexuality red herring, this movie would have been better for it and far more interesting. People seem to focus more on Eddington's sexual preferences than his (and Einstein's) genius and their scientific breakthroughs and achievements. And that is a tragedy.
Nevertheless, this is a very good movie that I enjoyed very much despite these shortcomings. Enjoy!
Rating: 4/5 stars
As the title suggests, this movie is about two men. Albert Einstein and Arthur Stanley Eddington. Einstein is light of heart, humorous, and a bit flippant. Eddington is a serious and religious man, a quaker. Einstein has no idea, nor cares how to prove or demonstrate his theory of gravity. Eddington works out an experiment using a telescope to observe if starlight bends coming near a massive object, so he takes his telescope to Africa to photograph a total solar eclipse. The story also highlights old guard science vs. a creativity. Neither English nor German scientists are comfortable with Einstein's Relativity. In the end, both Eddington and Einstein are scientists and intellectually honest. This the story of two very different men, trying to understand the universe in their own ways. The science is only a prop for the story.
There are not too many films which accurately depict the personal lives of historical figures. Try as they may, secret human peculiarities which are more readily acceptable or at least tolerated in our present age, are seen as huge obstacles in years past. Case in point, this film called " Einstein and Eddington " is only now surfacing to the American public and according to this reviewer, has done a masterful job. The story itself centers on two men of Genius who lived at the beginning of the Tweneith century. The first is Arthur Eddington (David Tennant) the British Mathematician and astrophysicist and German scientist Albert Einstein (Andy Serkis, superb characterization). This film captures both the social and a bit of their personal lives before they became known to the world. Einstein is seen searching for answers to his theories concerning gravitational phenomenon and it's relationship to light. Eddington is captivated by the scientific contradictions of the Planet Mercury and Newtons calculations of its orbit. The result is the communication between The Englishman and the Swiss scientist, both of whom shrug off their nationalities in lieu of scientific truth. With Eddington dealing with his personal emotional ties to his secret admiration and love for his dear friend William Marston, (Patrick Kennedy), Einstein, deals with his wife Malava who confronts him with divorce, due to his illicit affairs. Both men are seen in their moments of contentment as well as dealing with their doubts and tragedies. All in all, the movie is a great triumph for both actors and a notable milestone for their accomplishment. Easilly recommended to anyone who would like to peek into the personal lives of two men who shook the world. ****
What an extraordinary experience!
Both Einstein and Eddington wrote numerous books for the general public, and I read most of them when I was young. I was familiar with the famous 1919 astronomical expedition to test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity by measuring the position of Mercury during an eclipse, and even read old newspaper accounts from the archives, including the comments by Alfred North Whitehead. And I have read books on the history of science.
Yet I never knew about the context in which General Relativity was developed, both historical and personal. Now, in light of this program, it seems obvious: General Relativity was published in 1916, during the first World War. The Eddington expedition to measure Mercury occurred in 1919, shortly after the war ended. And yet, when we learn about science we assume that it rises above politics and conflicts like war and national pride, as though existing in another world.
What we see in Einstein and Eddington is that it does not. Politics and national pride played central roles, and it is only through individuals resisting social pressure that it does, actually, rise above transient political bias. Specifically, Britain's national pride was closely tied with Newtonian physics. Germany's national pride could be enhanced by having a scientist of their own overthrow Newton, namely Einstein. But both Eddington -- who, as director of the Cambridge Observatory was viewed as a protector of Newton's law of gravity -- and Einstein believed loyalty to scientific truth transcended national chauvinism.
These principles were put to the test as much as Einstein's theories because of the ongoing war between Britain and Germany. In Eddington we have a Quaker and true pacifist, and in Einstein we have a not terribly devout Jew who also does not believe in war, and wrote pacifist essays later in life. However, to say Einstein did not believe in God is mistaken, just not the anthropomorphic, personal God. This film brings out the curious parallels between the two scientists.
According to the film, it was a letter from Eddington prodding Einstein to use his Theory of Special Relativity to explain the anomalous orbit of Mercury that put Einstein on the road to writing his Theory of General Relativity, published in 1916. An examination of the dates of publication of his works in the intervening years suggests this is probably misleading -- say a literary device, though I am not sure; the chronology of events in the movie are vague. By 1911 he had already calculated that light from a star would be bent by the sun's gravity -- which was proved correct by Eddington's 1919 expedition. At any rate, Eddington should have had several other journal articles by Einstein to read.
This simplification of the story can be forgiven because the film does such a good job of conveying for the layman several concepts of relativity, particularly gravity bending space. An intelligent person should be able to follow this film. But a little more scientific context would have been helpful for novices.
There are many layers to this film, one being the invention of weapons by German scientists, which outrages both Einstein and Eddington's British colleagues. Yet, Einstein's General Relativity laid the foundation for the ultimate weapon.
I'm not sure the film precisely captures the character of the young Einstein, but it comes close. More recent biographies have told about Einstein's relations with women, and that he was sometimes, shall we say, manipulative. So it is good to show him as a human being. He was always a non-conformist, especially in his later years, when he could afford to be. The bit at the end with him going before the press looking disheveled was silly, and the shot of him sticking out his tongue was from many decades later. But chalk it up to literary license.
I was also annoyed by the snide comment about Eddington's irrelevancy at the end of the film. Eddington did solid, respected science and was very famous, the Carl Sagan of his time. It's been a century since the period presented in this film, and few scientists remain household names that long. Eddington was an early astrophysicist and one of the first cosmologists, so he was a pioneer who laid the groundwork for so much that we read about in the press today. It is a fine thing this film brought him back into public view.
It would have been nice if the actors could have pronounced Max Planck's name correctly. And why do the British kill animals on screen so often? It's very disturbing, especially for children.
What really bugged me about Einstein and Eddington was the goofy camera work by Julian Court. I can see hand holding the camera outside while moving, but inside while the actors are sitting at a table talking? If you can't hold a camera steady, put it on a tripod! It sure looked like they were jerking the camera up and down unnecessarily during static scenes, unless the camera had Parkinson's. This is not MTV or youtube; it is not even one of those wacky National Geographic documentaries.
This is an historical science drama, and it should have been treated with the appropriate polish. The jerky camera movement was distracting from the concentration needed to follow the ideas being presented. Aside from that, this docudrama really held my interest throughout. So one point off for the camera work, one point off for killing animals; otherwise, a 10.
Many of the works that Eddington and Einstein wrote for the layman are still worth reading today, and do not require prior science courses. Eddington's honest examination of philosophical questions related to science, particularly between consciousness and the physical universe, are still relevant. Eddington was among the best at explaining science and cosmology to the general public, and I think he would have been delighted by this film.
key word - chemistry between two impressive actors. than - seductive performance. and a good story. a film from science universe but not exactly about science. about friendship and passion for knowledge but only as instrument. a pledge about basic values of society but not exactly a manifesto. a great show - this is perfect definition. because the script gives chance to do a splendid circle of delicate nuances. it is comfortable to discover Andy Serkis out of masks of his strange characters. and it is pure joy to meet a David Tennant in middle of a subtle work to explore limits of a scientist. so, result is full of joy. and proof of a smart work of a good director. far to be page from science history, it is a kind of fairy tale. and seed for charming definition of two legendary figures.
Its a long time since A Beautiful Mind that another biographic movie of scientist is made. And this movie, in fact is about 2 scientists, is a great work! The inclusion of Eddington is a good choice by the director. He could have made just a movie about Einstein, but the role of Eddington help to add different point of view but also show how, in real life, scientists collaborate to achieve a common goal. He has made this movie a true account for scientists in general . It is a well-made period movie. The emotional and social impacts ( of the war and the transitions of the era) upon the characters are expressed accordingly. Hence, this movie manages to balance the science side and the human side of the lives of both einstein and eddington. In fact it is probably the first movie about scientists that makes the subject look pretty human, and a character than the audience could actually relate to
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Andy Serkis was the biggest problem for me in this film. Because he
spoke nothing like Einstein (whom I've often heard in clips)--and
projected nothing of the personality I've read about--that portion of
the film really threw me off. Other actors have decided to neither take
coaching to speak like or change themselves to look like the famous
characters they portrayed; but Serkis took that one step further by
changing his character's basic personality too--and often portrayed
Einstein as a canny clownish elf! I felt the casting was a mistake, and
the acting was a throw-away. What a shame.
David Tennant was fine, though. And discovering the laws of physics and development of what went on in the early years of the last century was thrilling--if over-dramatic in some places.
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