What comes to mind when you think of the National Geographic television channel? Cute furry animals, or handsome but scary slippery ones, or ones who roar in the jungle?
What about a series about a two-legged animal without fur or scales, but with exceptional intelligence?
That’s National Geographic new series Genius, which traces the life of the world’s most brilliant scientific mind, Albert Einstein.
Finding an actor who can portray such an iconic figure would have been a challenge for director Ron Howard (yes, that Ron Howard, Richie of Happy Days television fame), but he found the perfect candidate right here in Australia.
Geoffrey Rush is an actor who inhabits every character he plays, right down to the toenails, and he is absolutely believable as the adult Einstein, complete with wild curly hair and a ready twinkle in his eye.
As the young Einstein, South African-born, English-raised former cathedral choirboy Johnny Flynn is an ideal young Einstein. Flynn shows us the embryonic brilliance and the determination to follow his own path, perhaps spurred by his stern father’s decision to move the rest of the family to Italy and leave young Albert to fend for himself in Germany.
The series skips between different time periods in Einstein’s life—in one scene we see the youthful Einstein astounding professors with his precocious knowledge, and the next we see a middle-aged Einstein, with his second wife Elsa, beautifully played by English actor Emily Watson.
In the wrong hands this could be very confusing, but Howard makes it a seamless transition that always seems to make sense, and gives a rounded picture of the scientist who developed the theory of relativity.
Einstein’s thirst for knowledge and wisdom reminds us that we too are encouraged to search for wisdom and truth.
“If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you for asking” (James chapter 1, verse 5).
And that’s exactly what Einstein did—he kept asking why until he found the answers he was searching for.
Humour is not necessarily something we associate with Einstein’s great intellect, but there is plenty of it in Genius.
Rush’s older Einstein gives free rein to his sense of humour when, before a lecture tour to the United States, he is grilled by an American official who suspects him of being a communist. Einstein finds this so ridiculous that he refuses to take it seriously, prompting the official to accuse Einstein of failing to appreciate the gravity of his situation.
Quick as a shot, Einstein fires back “Mr Kost, I know a little more about gravity than you!” Indeed.