A Brief History of Time (1991) (G)
Errol Morris is the name of documentary filmmaking. He is not necessarily the biggest success of the loudest (read "Michael Moore") but thanks to critics like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, his name has become synonymous with excellent documentary films.
Though it's not his most famous or his most celebrated work, "A Brief History of Time" sees Morris at his most intimate, optimistic, and methodical. Based on the work of the same name, the movie seeks to both encompass the life of Stephen Hawking and attempt to explain his theories regarding the creation of the universe and wormholes to the average viewer.
This works as a one-two punch to the audience. As we hear of Hawking's childhood and then his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) it is accompanied with his theories. We begin to see why it was done like this. As Hawking began to recognize his mortality, he began to become furiously dedicated to his work. When it was said that he only had two and a half years left to live, the creation of the universe became something that he had to know about. If you know the beginning, you might have a better way of understanding the ending.
"Which came first: the chicken or the egg?"
Beginning in 1942 with Stephen's birth, the film tracks his childhood and his college years. These are the more personal moments of the film, when we see Stephen's mother and family talking about his history and his quirks. Certainly smart, Stephen was also somewhat of a prankster through his college years and the stories here are a delight to listen to.
"A Brief History of Time" allows plenty of time for Stephen to talk. He is the most interviewed personality of the movie and rightly so, after all, it is his movie. Morris doesn't let the stories of friends and family infringe on the bigger picture: the meaning of life.
As we near Stephen's mid-twenties, when he is diagnosed with ALS, we see the turning point in his career. He begins to study cosmology because the theories are attractive to him.
When the discover of black holes occurs, Stephen has a mental breakthrough that he thinks will help him nail down the beginning of life.
If we assume that the inverse of black hole is possible then the Big Bang must have been something like that. Mind you, this is mostly theoretical, but "A Brief History of Time" never claimed to be absolute fact...yet absolute facts comprise most of it.
It is pointless here to mention all of the theories and deconstructions of those theories here. "A Brief History of Time" isn't a long movie and certainly doesn't bore, though its subject material would seem catered to put certain people to sleep.
By the end of the movie, we realize what it has been all about: the tenacity of humanity. We may not be able to tell if there is a god or not, we may not be able to rationalize the existence of a black hole, and we may not even be able to tell if the chicken came before the egg; but what we can do is ask questions, with a fervor and a passion, and try to answer those to the best of our abilities.
To do any less, would be lethargy.
Posted by Micah Jones