Friday, November 14, 2014
"The Theory of Everything": New biography of Stephen Hawking depicts his marriage; there is some more cosmological theory
“The Theory of Everything” was what Stephen Hawking, now 72, attempts to develop. This “boutique studio” (Universal-Focus and Working Title) biography of the physicist aims to please larger mainstream audiences and sell more tickets than some other smaller films available online, one of which I reviewed Nov. 12, as narrated by Hawking himself. The movie title is the same as a book by Hawking himself.
The film, directed by James Marsh, tends to consolidate a lot of details, which are quite clear in Hawking’s own film for PBS. But what it accomplishes is making us watch the painful (at first subtle) transformation of a young man (Eddie Redmayne), vigorous enough at 19 as he bikes, into physical dependency (because of ALS, for which "motor neuron disease" seems like a euphemism of a name). He seems really quite likable as an older teen, a nice roommate, interested in chess and Wagner, trying to date women. He gets a spot on the rowing team, but seems to be a coach rather than rower himself. Until about age 19 he seems to be of average physical strength and endurance. His very early symptoms resemble some of my problems, but I never progressed into frank disability, and the cause of my own issues is still a mystery. But it could be related in some way (not yet discovered) genetically to more severe neurological disorders.
There is a scene where his future wife Jane (Felicity Jones) grabs him and kisses him, early in his troubles. That reminds me of a time when I watched a woman I had once dated, before I came out the second time, do that with someone. It’s funny how movies can make decades-old events pop and play in your own mind. Jane was able to fall in love with him, and, despite the disability, Hawking would father three children in marriage. The presence of people who took care of him would gradually destabilize the marriage. The handsome music teacher Jonathan Hellyer Jones (Charlie Cox) is, besides being helpful around the house and on camping trips, quite effective as a choir director and with piano lessons, and has the best intentions, but gradually he and Jane fall in love. And Stephen would fall in love with his nurse, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake).
The film actually does go more into the “theory of everything” than does Hawking’s own account for PBS. Of great controversy is the existence of Hawking radiation from black holes. This concept seems to contradict the concept of a black hole, but is predicted by the mathematics of quantum mechanics. In fact, black holes can gradually lose their mass. This is troubling if, as some cosmologists propose, the surfaces of black holes contain the information associated with souls between incarnations. That information (a soul’s “akashic record” as Rosicrucians call it) could disappear (an idea actually mentioned in a Monroe Institute video discussing the afterlife and “soul family” – a whole area that Hawking himself sees as unnecessary – although in more recent years Hawking may have questioned his own atheism. (The film makes a lot of Jane’s Christianity through the Church of England – Anglican or Episcopal.) More interesting – and an idea explored in my novel (Angel’s Brother) and at least one screenplay (based on DADT III in a sci-fi setting) is that a “micro black hole” might contain a soul’s record but be subject to loss or complete evaporation much sooner because of low mass. This processing of micro black holes (and what ever "information" they might carry) could explain dark matter and dark energy. In the movie, Hawking mentions the idea that a star could explode as a supernova, leaving a black hole, and in theory the black hole, given enough time, could evaporate completely (like snow in the sun on a day when the temperature is still below freezing),, meaning everything came to nothing. If such an idea were applied to the Big Bang itself, it could mean that the universe could disappear some day, it seems. That means, even “God” could die (which is what happens at the end of Clive Barker’s novel “Imajica”!) Maybe, as intelligent, rather large but clumsy primates (loving our pets just capable of free will), we’re at a particular point on a spectrum of conscious entities, and gods, who can span more dimensions than we can, are above us. The LDS Church believes something like that.
The closing credits offer a “universal show” of nebulae and galaxies, more varied shots of these objects than were actually shown in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (Nov. 8). Most moviegoers who saw Nolan’s film would want to see this one soon after.
The official site is here. I saw the crowd before a substantial Friday afternoon crowd at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA, on the first cold day this fall. The film has a limited opening last weekend (New York and LA), expanded into more cities this weekend, and would presumably show everywhere in one more week.