Errol Morris allows us to travel to the stars and beyond through the mind of Stephen Hawking.
Skywatchers and others fascinated with the mysteries of the universe have been experiencing exiciting times as of late. From last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson to the recent detection of gravity waves from the Big Bang, we seem to be living in a golden age of monumental breakthroughs that are helping us better understand the makeup and origin of the universe.
One of the figures responsible for making the complexities of the universe more accessible to the general public was Stephen Hawking through his best-selling 1988 book A Brief History of Time. While the theories expressed in those pages are remarkable on their own, filmmaker Errol Morris was even more interested in the man behind the theories, and brilliantly profiled the pioneering astrophysicist in a 1991 film with the same name. Now, nearly 25 years later, Morris’ A Brief History of Time has received a digital makeover and Blu-ray release by The Criterion Collection that ensures its availability to a new generation of watchers and dreamers.
As we discover through an included interview with the filmmaker, Morris was the ideal person to adapt this book for film. Most filmmakers would have agonized over how to understand and accurately illustrate Hawking’s complex theories about black holes and the expanding universe, but Morris’ previous education in the history and philosophy of science helped him make quick work of that aspect of the film and allowed him to focus on creative ways to help us better understand the man.
While the film features mesmerizing original music by Philip Glass, the focal point of the soundtrack is the clicker that Hawking uses to communicate with his computer. Though Hawking’s debilitating motor neuron disease prevents him from experiencing the physical world, Morris’ film shows how that’s only helped Hawking use his mind to explore the deepest reaches of the universe, and take us all with him for the ride.
Christian Williams is Editor in Chief of Utne Reader; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @cwilliams. He also paints and makes and music. View and listen to his work at www.christianwwilliams.com.