A Brief History of Time Criterion Collection Review: A Quirky, Idiosyncratic Tribute

Everyone knows the story of Stephen Hawking, the iconic physicist, cosmologist, author, and director of research. They also know that he struggles with a rare form of ALS that has afflicted him over many decades, but the coolest thing is that he doesn’t let that unfortunate disease keep him doing his life’s work. A Brief History of Time is director Errol Morris’ quirky, idiosyncratic tribute to Hawking and his controversial ideas. In terms of Morris’ other documentaries, including The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven, and The Fog of War, Brief History ranks up there with those great works, while on its own, it remains a very interesting time capsule of Hawking and his theories.

This motion picture about Stephen Hawking’s thoughts was adapted from his book titled the same and adjoined his life. A Brief History of Time endeavors to clarify a scope of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes, light cones, and super-string politics to accompany Hawking’s broad vision of the universe. Morris weaves memoir in with the science, talking with individuals from Hawking’s family, including his mother, sister, and aunt, along with companions and associates, which consists of Roger Penrose, Dennis Sciama, and John Archibald Wheeler.

What I didn’t know is that this was Morris’ first film as a director-for-hire, where he was signed on by Steven Spielberg, which eventually brought some problems, but he had the last laugh as it went on to great acclaim, including the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Award for Documentary Filmmaking and the Documentary Filmmaker’s Trophy. It also won the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, and the IDA Award at the International Documentary Association.

The Criterion dual-layer edition doesn’t have many supplements, but there are two, which include a new interview with Morris and a new interview with cinematographer John Bailey. There is also a booklet featuring an essay by critic David Skeritt, a chapter from Hawking’s memoir from 2013 called My Brief History, and a short excerpt from the original Brief History book (published in 1988).

I think that Hawking himself is very modest when he said, “It is garbage. It is just media buildup. They required someone to fill the good example of incapacitated virtuoso. At any rate, I’m incapacitated.” As for me, I don’t think he should have admitted that, because he is one of our greatest thinkers and minds alongside Newton, Einstein, and Marie Curie. For fans of documentaries, this film will both entertain you and also make you look at the world at a more different capacity, despise its rather ‘brief’ running time.


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter