Genius: Nat Geo's 10 part mini-series on Albert Einstein is a riveting watch
There have been movies galore on the best brain mankind has ever seen - Albert Einstein. The prominent ones that come to mind immediately are IQ which featured a goofy Walter Matthau and Einstein and Eddington, the BBC TV movie that centered more on the great scientist’s relationship with British great, Sir Arthur Eddington.
But there are none that have done justice to the marvelous seesaw life that Einstein endured in his lifetime. So when National Geographic decided to encapsulate the same in a ten-part mini series, it could only be dubbed as a yeoman service.
The series called Genius is a riveting watch and is something that TV aficionados cannot afford to miss. The very first episode begins on a thunderous note with the assassination of Jewish politician Walther Rathenau by a German ultra nationalist group, reflective of the troubles to come for Europe with the rise of Hitler, and soon after, we witness Einstein’s philandering habits with his secretary.
This sets the momentum of things to come. In the garb of a biopic, the show dissects the man called Einstein. The non-linear format of the series introduces us to a young Einstein and an old Einstein where events keep hoping between his university days and a pre World War II Germany. The events help us understand why Einstein was a stubbornly obsessive man and what factors contributed in propounding his famous theory of relativity.
They also hint at how this genius held his beliefs - in the universal goodness of mankind- over and above all political leanings, often leading fellow academicians and thinkers to misunderstand him.
Before we delve into the merits and demerits of the series, think of the people who made this biopic happen. The series is helmed by director Ron Howard, the man who already has an Oscar for best direction for A Beautiful Mind and films like Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon in his repertoire. Ron’s long-term associate, Brian Grazer, has produced the series. Grazer is an established name in Hollywood as producer of some seriously noteworthy films, and has an Oscar to his credit.
Hans Zimmer, who has composed the soundtrack, definitely needs no introduction. But one name that stands really tall in the role of senior Albert Einstein is Geoffrey Rush, Australia’s gift to Hollywood. As the senior Einstein, Geoffrey conjures magic and captivates viewers. It can now be said Rush is the rightful claimant to have done the best with his time bending character. Geoffrey Rush sinks his teeth into the character and had there been a lookalike contest (or histrionics contest) he would have carried home the top prize.
That Ron Howard is helming the series should not come as a surprise to his fans considering the fact that while A Beautiful Mind dealt with the life of mathematician John Nash, another superlative film Apollo 13 too dealt with the realm of science.
The victory of Genius lies in its detailed approach. With a very in-depth approach, the series talks about an Einstein which the world is not aware of. It talks about an Einstein, whose college days were full of struggle owing to his habit of constant questioning, a love lorn young man and a man who always seemed in a dilemma when it came to family and relationships. The events are woven beautifully in a non-linear format that gives us a sense of history just before and after the twentieth century.
Genius, based on American author Walter Isaacson’s 2007 book Einstein: His Life And Universe, is Nat Geo’s first scripted anthology and judging by the first few episodes, its apparent the ball has surely been sent out of the park by those associated with the series. In an interview to Indiewire on of the executive producer Ken Biller had remarked aptly and when he said, “The goal of the show is to really humanise and get under the skin of Albert Einstein. We discovered that he lived this big, bold, brash, complicated messy life.”
Though this piece is based on the first three episodes of Einstein, its evident that his college years, his thinking rationale and his love story hold forte on his life and influence his future choices. This also means that viewers will also get to see fleeting appearance of Geoffrey Rush much against their wishes. But the life that Einstein led around his Nobel prize win and the era around Hitler and his subsequent migration to American is equally riveting and that in a way guaranteed more of the seasoned actor. It's in the later episodes that we will begin to see more of Geoffrey Rush potentially, with focus on Einstein’s nearly forced migration to the USA and his conflict with Nazism.
Genius comes as a whiff of fresh air amidst the barrage of content being bombarded to us by the Netflixs and the Amazons of the world.
From an individual viewpoint the only thing that sort of seemed out of sync to me was the less screen time of Geoffrey Rush in the initial episodes but Johnny Flynn does full justice to the young Einstein. Yes, I can wait for Geoffrey Rush. Genius is a piece of history that needs to be savored.