Sometimes a flick comes along that mixes subject matter with technique and the whole ball of wax turns into fine art. Like the 2002 BBC TV-film Copenhagen starring Daniel Craig, Stephen Rea, and Francesca Annis. It’s basically just a conversation between two old friends —Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr — back in 1941. The atom’s been split for a couple of years and everybody’s concerned about whether or not Hitler’s crack physicists are going to figure out how to make a big-ass bomb now.
Fortunately for the world, due to Hitler’s cracked head, most of the top particle physicists in Europe had left his domain because they happened to be Jewish. In 1941, Bohr (half-Jewish) hadn’t left Denmark yet and Heisenberg, one of the few brainiacs remaining in Deutschland (he wasn’t Jewish), went to visit him. According to the film, he either went to find out if the Allies were building a bomb, to get some missing piece of the bomb puzzle, or to beg Bohr to not develop the bomb at all. No one knows for sure. Not important.
The thing about this film is that it has virtually no action in it. It’s just people walking around, conversating. And yet it’s mesmerizing. At one point the camera swirls around the two men facing off in the middle of a park. Big trees, lots of empty space. Kind of like the landscape down at the quantum level. The camera movement makes you feel like an electron in a p-shell of a U-235 atom. And suddenly Bohr gets pissed. He goes flying off. The friendship is split apart.
It’s an alleglorious moment of cinematic beauty, elevating film art to fine art. You dig?
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