In two parallel stories, the clockmaker John Harrison builds the marine chronometer for safe navigation at sea in the 18th Century and the horologist Rupert Gould becomes obsessed with restoring it in the 20th Century.
In the eighteenth century, the only way to navigate accurately at sea was to follow a coastline all the way, which would not get you from Europe to the West Indies or the Americas. Observing the sun or stars would give you the latitude, but not the longitude unless done in conjunction with a clock that would keep time accurately at sea, and no such clock existed. After one too many maritime disasters due to navigational errors, the British Parliament set up a substantial prize for a way to find the longitude at sea. This movie's main story is that of craftsman John Harrison (Sir Michael Gambon). He built a clock that would do the job, what we would now call a marine chronometer. But the Board of Longitude was biased against this approach and claiming the prize was no simple matter. Told in parallel is the twentieth century story of Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons), for whom the restoration of Harrison's clocks to working order became first a hobby, then an obsession that threatened to ...
Jeremy Irons' character, Rupert Gould, is only mentioned in one paragraph of Dava Sobel's book. When he was writing the screenplay, Director Charles Sturridge conceived the idea of telling Gould's story in parallel with Harrison's. This gave modern audiences a more sympathetic and relatable character to follow through the story. See more »
The word "scientist" was not invented until 1840. In the 18th century they were still called "natural philosophers". See more »
You've found a way to build this sea-clock, haven't you?
With God's help it might be possible. --I mean, why did He encourage me to build a perfect timepiece in the first place? So the blacksmith might start work 5 seconds earlier or later? Or was it to give us the ability to explore His creation in safety, to move without fear in the space He's given us to inhabit?
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This film was absolutely stunning, and after watching it we were amazed at how quickly the time flew. Though the entire movie (DVD) was 200 minutes long, we felt as though it had taken less than an hour. The sets and costumes were beautiful, the acting was superb, the meshing together of the two different times worked extremely well, the "timing" was impeccable, the tension built wonderfully, and the climax was powerful. We never dreamed we would feel so strongly about a movie depicting what we originally thought would be a mundane, boring subject. We are grateful to the makers of this film for the attention to detail and the feeling they put into this movie. It came alive for us, and we now feel more appreciative toward those geniuses of former times who persevered against all odds to improve the human condition. Kudos to Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons for their exquisite performances of complex characters, and for the depth of feeling they both portrayed.
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