Stephen Hawking is more than a brilliant man. He is inspirational, determined, unparalleled, and then after all of that, he is also one of the most intelligent people of his (or any) generation. Errol Morris’s documentary “A Brief History of Time” (1991) is not really about “time” at all, at least not in the way one might imagine. It is a documentary about the extraordinary life of Hawking, and about his time spent here in our solar system. Yes, he is a theoretical physicist, famed author, and cosmologist that has paved the way in his field over the last 60 years, but he also has achieved a level of significance for continuing to live and thrive despite having a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
As a documentarian, Errol Morris is a legend. From his earlier films such as “Gates of Heaven” (1978) and “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), all the way through his Academy Award winning film “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” (2003), you can always be sure that experiencing one of his films will be both entertaining and educational. “A Brief History of Time”, quite simply, is sensational. The only downside is that it is in fact so brief. With a running time of 80 minutes, it is hard to delve into either Stephen Hawking, or into his ideas and theories. It actually feels more like part one in a series, rather than the entire production. In addition to the interviews with those who have worked and lived with him, “A Brief History of Time” is graced with a rich and soothing score from Philip Glass that could just as easily serve as the score to a documentary into space exploration.
Nevertheless, this 80 minute, insightful glimpse into Hawking and his life is captivating to experience. Interesting is too small of a word. Exhilarating is perhaps more accurate. When going into the movie it is easy to have some ideas about what Hawking might say, but his open-minded philosophy is both surprising and welcomed. “A Brief History of Time” is the kind of film that stays with you. Witnessing Hawking and sharing in just a few of his thoughts will remain in your mind, giving you something to think about for days- even if you aren’t sure you always understood what he was talking about.