By Henry Heffer
As Eisenstein supposedly said; doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. However, in terms of astrophysics, an infinite number of different results occur after the completion of any such ‘thing’. In fact, quantum mechanics takes it one step further and dictates that- anything can happen, at any moment.
We can therefore conclude that as I sat there watching Alison Rose’s Star Men I was simultaneously, in some other universe, not watching Star Men. All things considered, I felt sorry for that other me.
This is a brave film, that seems much more like a labor of love than something everyone will just understand. Firstly, Rose has attempted to capture four scientists, all over the age of seventy, road tripping and hiking across the U.S.A- It was never going to be Fear and Loathing, or Easy Rider.
But the gamble somewhat paid off because Rose has gone to great lengths to make sure that we like these great men. However, as with most great men who have dedicated their lives intensely, they have come out the other end much quieter but much stranger than when they went in, as such, the most interesting moments of this documentary, are when we can see the four old friends in their element- lecturing on their very specific fields in astronomy, or pointing out the stars.
A particular favourite moment of mine was when the most eccentric member of the reunion, Roger (the proud owner of his own giant telescope in Cambridge), very proudly shows the camera a thick 200 page landscape book of graphs mapping entire spectral journey of a single star; unknowingly marking his own position on the spectrum. The sense of joy and pride that could be seen on his face, that was echoed several times throughout the film, was a reminder of just how good it can all be.
Rose did try and push the lager issues far too much through her interviews, pouncing on any notion of god or life after death with a fury that became tiresome. Presumably she had some knowledge about who her final audience would be and knew that the majority of that audience would be interested in the answers. It is a relief to discover that after studying the universe for their entire lives, the Star Men are just as clueless about death as I am. It seems fitting. Even more than that, these men didn’t really seem interested in answering these sorts of detracting questions.
In the end, Rose resists the temptation to pry further. She has realised that although these men have been looking, they have found nothing that looks like heaven or god. Instead they are fixed by the far more majestic activities of a universe that is far more spectacular than anything we could dream up on earth.