Day three of Doc/Fest is subject to something of a delayed beginning today, thanks to Man Of Steel opening theatrically. Doc/Fest begins for us today with the early afternoon screening of Particle Fever, from Walter Murch and Mark Levinson, while Sundance favourite Blackfish is up later. In keeping with tradition, look to our Twitter feed (here) for the most up to date commentary, and check back here for more thorough developments throughout the day.
Particle Fever – Mark Levinson here teams up with rockstar particle physicist David Kaplan for this documentary exploring the discovery of the Higgs particle at the CERN large hadron collider. Walter Murch stepped in mid-way through the project to oversee the cut of the film. The three of them were present for an entertaining Q&A session after the film.
As an admitted philistine when it comes to not only the relative merits (relative? I think that might actually read as a physics gag. It’s not intentional by any means) of particle physics, it’s with an air of surprise that Particle Fever impressed so very much. In their opening salvo the film’s director, Levinson, referred to his subjects as the “cast” of the movie, and while such a tag might ordinarily read as quite distracting it’s wholly apt for the film at hand. Across a number of years Levinson and Kaplan trace developments at CERN, as major, world-changing events and discoveries take place. It’s in no way distracting or alienating to a casual viewer, which is largely thanks to the cast of characters assembled in front of the camera. No better is this accessibility defined than with Kaplan himself, a likeable, eager figure.
While Particle Fever is dealing with matter so tiny that one could hope never to actually witness the elements with their own bare eye, such is the magnitude of the large hadron collider that it makes for a beautiful aesthetic set-piece in itself. Witness the ambition of Atlas, one of the major experiment chambers in which the work being done at CERN takes place, a five-storey tall unit built with the precision of a Swiss-watch according to one of the scientists gifted with the opportunity to work there. Cut alongside such spectacular sights is the relatively (another unintentional physics joke. Honest) minor visage of an espresso machine, around which takes a fascinating conversation between two of the older members of the academic community that surrounds particle physics. Both are coming to terms with the notion that there lives work’s might soon be proven to have been in vain, with the resulting scene offering an affecting look at a people not ordinarily associated with such real-world woes.
Having preceded Particle Fever with a screening of Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel, one was struck with a brilliant, although quite unlikely shared ethos between the two movies. They’re kindred spirits of sorts. Both films deal with that ultimate question; “Where do I come from?”. That Levinson and Kaplan’s film manages to capture it’s subject with a wealth more bombast and spectacle than Snyder’s billion dollar epic is a testament to the craft and heart on display.