The singular tale of Einstein and General relativity

General relativity : everyone has heard about the theory imagined by Albert Einstein. This year, the theory celebrates its 100th birthday. Few people know that it has been successively praised, attacked, rejected, even forgotten and then finally «rediscovered» during the 1960s.

That story, unknown to the general public, is being told to us by Albert Einstein himself, and by some of the scientists who validated and revived the theory. Like Sir Roger Penrose, one of the most brilliant British mathematician who gave visual representations of a black hole, a strange cosmic object that challenged the theory. Or Jocelyn Bell who, as a student in Cambridge during the sixties, discovered a new range of stars – the pulsars – which matches the predictions of general relativity.

Einstein in the sky. Credit: Naji El Mir/LookatSciences.

Einstein in the sky. Credit: Naji El Mir/LookatSciences.

Beyond the typical scientific documentary, The singular tale of Einstein and General relativity is a profoundly human story which unfolds along a journey through space and time. It is also the account of a man who doubted all his life about his own theory and died without knowing he was right.

Jocelyn Bell. Credit: LookatSciences.

Jocelyn Bell. Credit: LookatSciences.

3D animation plays a central part in the film. Firstly, it allows us to see one of the most important objects in that story : the black hole. We owe these simulation images to the french physicist Alain Riazuelo. He based his work on the theory’s equations. They show us a black hole using the point of view of an observer falling into it.

Another work of animation was produced by Naji El Mir. His graphic style, precise and poetic at the same time, allows us to understand particularly sensitive/delicate/difficult  issues which run throughout the theory. These images punctuate the whole film.

Black hole, a simulated view. Credit: Alain Riazuelo/LookatSciences.

Black hole, a simulated view. Credit: Alain Riazuelo/LookatSciences.

Why launch into the adventure of this movie? When Quentin Lazarotto came to ask us (Mathilde Renard and I) to produce his first documentary, he was looking for something we like to do: to accompany as close as possible each film in production.  And this is what we did with him and his co-authors, the physicist Jean-Philippe Uzan and the historian Jean Eisenstaedt: from the very beginning of the writing stage to the final editing.

For them, and also for us at Look at Sciences, we would like to make people realise the universal dimension of Einstein’s theory, the new vision of the Universe that he gives. Of course at any time, we thought we could explain the Theory. As often said by the two scientific co-authors, Jean and Jean-Philippe, they are so little, the physicists, to understand it! So we decide to tell the story of that theory, why it remains unrecognised and went through many years of disgrace. Probably because scientists did not want to see the revolution it represented. I hope the audience of our movie will see it.


PortraitsVincent Gaullier is a producer at Look at sciences. His filmography includes:

Mission Rosetta, the origins of life. A documentary by Jean-Christophe Ribot and Cécile Dumas (52 minutes, Arte France and RMC découverte, in association with the CNC, the Procirep, and the ESA).

Listen and come, directed by Laurent Salters (web-series of 20 short films plus a feature film, Iskra / Universcience / CNRS Images, in association with the CNC).

The art of flying, directed by Do Brunet and Vincent Gaullier (webdocumentary, Ki production / Comportements sonores, in association with CNC New media).

Soul skin, directed by Pierre-Oscar Levy (90 minutes and a webseries of 15 episodes, Universcience / Ciné Tamaris / Vidéo de Poche. With the participation of the Ile de France council).

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