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UK, 1991 (MIFF 1992, Documentaries)

Director: Errol Morris

From Errol Morris, the director of the daz­zling The Thin Blue Line, comes this won­drous and wonder-filled joumey into the life and work of Professor Stephen Hawking, the world-famous physicist and popular author.

Like in the earlier film, Morris rejects the traditional orthodoxies of documentary film­making for an approach that is highly stylized, mediated and interpretative. Loosely built around interviews with Hawking's family and colleagues, the film's true subject is Hawking's fascinating theories about 'black holes', real and imaginary time and the infinitude of the universe. As 'unfilmable' as these topics may seem, Morris succeeds, with the help of optical and special effects, at demonstrating the mys­teries that have preoccupied Hawking for more than two decades.

At the centre of the mystery is Hawking himself. Shortly after his 20th birthday, he was diagnosed as having amyotrophic lateral scle­rosis, an incurable disease which leads to com­plete paralysis, all the while leaving the patient in full control of his or her intellectual capaci­ties. Though he was expected to live only two more years. Hawking embarked on his seminal work, eventually writing and communicating with the outside world (and Morris) with the help of a unique word processor.

The elaborately crafted film was pho­tographed by John Bailey and Stefan Czapsky and scored by Philip Glass.

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