It’s funny how things come together. We have times where you’ll see similar themes emerge quite organically in culture. We’ve seen movies recently about mathematical and scientific geniuses like Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. But clearly it isn’t just the smarts that bring us to the movies. There has to be a dramatic element and often a romantic element. I love to see this mix, this intersection of art and science, partly to connect to what would seem so foreign such as esoteric string theory and quantum mechanics or game theory and cryptography. Now, of course, Mr. Turing has built-in drama in his life and in his work during the war. Mr. Hawking has a embedded drama in his life as well in pushing beyond his terrible disease to keep working.
Austrailian Writer/Director Martha Goddard has a new short (15 minutes) out called Gödel, Incomplete starring Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, upcoming Man from Uncle) and Matt Zeremes (Burke&Wills, Australian TV shows The Surgeon, Home and Away). This movie aligns itself well with the geek chic that we have seen in the last few years with everything from Numb3rs and comedy The Big Bank Theory to Sherlock and Elementary. Gödel, Incomplete celebrates the intellect and relationship whilst leaving an intriguing question about Kurt Gödel’s research that led to thinking on time-travel. Indeed, in a separate post, I’ll explore a little bit more on this coming together of worlds celebrated by geeks and others.
Returning to the movie, however, there are some theoretical underpinnings posited by Mr. Gödel related to time travel. In particular, the Gödel Metric, timeline curves which could allow for a form of time travel, are well established. The application of rotating universes leading to time travel was thought by most of Mr. Gödel’s colleagues to be results of Mr. Gödel’s mental deterioration and paranoia. It was a work left undone. So, the title is a nod to both the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem (basically showing , using a self-referential mathematics, that all of math cannot be derived from a set of axioms) and his unfinished work on time travel.
The movie starts out with a young woman, who is a particle physicist, working late at a particle accelerator (in fact the LHC). When she initiates the smashing of atoms at enormous speeds, it seems to put her into a time warp. She is led once to an older Gödel and later to a younger. Now it’s hard to say much about a 15-minute film without giving away spoilers. What I will say is that this short film does what any great form of short story does. It paints in hints and short brushstrokes of brief frames to build a whole relationship, a development over time. It’s rather stunning that Ms. Goddard is able to build this world, this relationship, this idea of time travel with such a brief use of time.
There are so many perfect production touches in film; I’ll simply give away one (small) spoiler: on returning from an early time trip, our protagonist, Serita, loses her cookies. I can imagine a little bit of time travel might be disorienting. So too, might meeting an older Kurt Gödel. She even puts to good use a bad habit; our physicist smokes, nicely tying into an earlier time when many smoked. Each of these touches make it feel more real. The music (excellent work by Basil Hogios, sets much of the atmosphere of the movie), transition scenes into Gödel’s world, and clarity of the frames without being harshly stark all point to great production value despite being a short film. While the roles only provide glimpses, the actors really do a nice job communicating with eyes, body language and movement to sustain that sense of developed familiarity. As I indicated above, I’ll dive deeper into this intersection of science, mathematics and humanities, for lack of a better word, that seem to be bubbling up everywhere, but I simply love its expression here.
It would be fabulous to see this project extended to flesh out the relationship even further, to build out the notion of time travel and the effects that it has on both Serita, Kurt Gödel, and others in their circle. Mr. Gödel clearly had some demise in his paranoia; he was also one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century. I would even say he’s the century’s Fermat. Not only did he rebut Russell and Whitehead, propose the P versus NP problem (which figured nicely in a season two episode of Elementary), provided Einstein with solutions involving close time-like curves related to his theory of general relativity, he even dabbled in theology. In other words, he is an intersection point; back in the day we called them renaissance men (and women) So, it’s at least fun to posit that his theoretical underpinnings of time travel have some less theoretical application. Seeing more bones put on that in the context of this complex cross-time relationship would be intriguing and entertaining. In a mere 15 minutes, Ms. Goddard inflames that curiosity while also leaving us with a sense of, well I can’t say without spoilers (I know, mean, right?).
So, while it’s hard for most of us regular Joe’s (OK, pun intended) to get to a showing of this, I’ve been in contact with Ms. Goodard and she’s been kind enough to provide access to those interested. Contact her here. I think it’s been in New York and Miami, if you do have an opportunity to see on the big screen, take it. It’s some of the best 15 minutes you’ll spend