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Prior to seeing The Theory of Everything I knew three things about Stephen Hawking:

  • He’s a well known scientist
  • Due to a disability he speaks with an American computer generated voice (the later gleaned from episodes of the Big Bang Theory)
  • His book, A brief history of time: from the big bang to black holes, lives down in the 530’s section of the library
  • It is not to be confused with Richard Dawkins‘, The God delusion, which lives in the 211 section
  • Not that I would ever make that mistake (cough)
  • Just saying

Have I ever attempted to read one of Hawking’s books? Never. Or Dawkins’ for that matter. I am mathematically challenged. I have no great interest in science (however important and worthy its study). I find meaning in stories – novels, song lyrics, personal narrative, fairy tales and myths – the later being the category under which I would put the Biblical creation stories. As someone said to me in my youth:

‘The question is not so much whether a man called Adam once ate an apple, Liz. It’s whether you would have eaten the apple.’

Okay, so I probably would have eaten the apple, tried to hide the evidence and, if caught, would have tried to put the blame on others. Just like Adam does in the creation story. My conclusion: Genesis is a story about God and the human condition and therefore not incompatible with science.

So why did I got to the movie? Why not? A friend invited me.

‘Is it a documentary? I asked, entering the cinema.

‘No. I think it is about his marriage.’

Okay, that sounded promising. Apart from this one small detail, I walked into the theatre completely ignorant. This opened me up to a number of pleasant surprises. For a start, I thought Hawking was American. The voice, people! The computer generated voice! Imagine my surprise when I found myself in 1960’s Cambridge. Perfect. There is nothing I love more than a British period drama. This one was particularly well done. Without giving too much away, here’s what stayed with me after the credits had stopped rolling.

  • The acting – Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were amazing
  • The interview in which Hawking’s PhD was discussed – as a writer I can relate to the mixture of strengths and weaknesses in any given work
  • The exploration of disability and the pressures this puts on a relationship
  • Themes of science and religion and how they intersect
  • The humour – I believe the real life Hawking is a witty character
  • The portrayal of Hawking’s struggle not to be defined by his disability
  • The scientific integrity it takes to develop and theory and then set out to disprove it
  • The poignancy of Jane Hawking’s situation
  • The horrorifying prospect of being ‘shut in’
  • The technological advances that have helped people in this situation

Since Saturday, I have done a bit of reading on Hawking, Dawkins and The theory of everything. I’ve learned that the movie was based on Jane Hawking’s memoirs: Travelling to infinity – my life with Stephen. In keeping with the private persona portrayed in the movie, Hawking chose not to read or comment on these memoirs. The film’s music score was composed by Johann Johannson. The music was recorded in the Abbey Road Studios. Eddie Redmayne won an Academy Award for his role. The later does not surprise me. The acting, the scripting, and the sound track for this movie were superb. Here’s the trailer to whet your appetite

 

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