Eddington was the director of the Royal Observatory in Britain at the time of his voyage to Africa in 1919. His mission was to prove whether Einstein’s radical new theory governing mass and time is valid or not. The climax of the film impinges on this moment of verification. It had far more significance than one scientist promoting the cause of science through upholding the ideas of another scientist. Beyond this, there is a British national reaching out in support of a German-born individual at a time when these two nations were at war. It is also a symbol of solidarity expressed by a Quaker to a Jew. Hence there is high social relevance to the film Eddington and Einstein. There is lesson for all of us in Eddington’s illustration of courage. He is seen in the film as a man of principles and a seeker of truth, who
“did not let narrow nationalism cloud his judgement or block his path. He started a correspondence with Einstein which the authorities who had asked him to study the German’s work wanted to suppress. Einstein, meanwhile, refused to let his scientific prowess be used in the German propaganda war against the British. There is a sense of beautiful symmetry between these two characters who are almost total opposites, in fact.” (“All Relative to Einstein,” 2008, p. 19)
In conclusion, the two films discussed in this essay present two facets to docudrama. In the case of The Deal, the product did not carry any weighty social message and consequently had minimal impact on British public discourse. Although in terms of drama, there is some merit to the film, it doesn’t measure up in terms of social relevance. Einstein and Eddington, on the other hand, contains messages of fraternity and solidarity across nations and faiths. There is also strong advocacy for the promotion of science and reason even if it undermines religious precepts. If docudrama as a form has to survive contemporarily and to endure into posterity, then more films of the class of Einstein and Eddington is called for. It would also bring in new audiences who would otherwise not watch a documentary or theatrical work. Films of the class of Einstein and Eddington can “also illuminate and sharply focus on various political, economic, social, and military problems” of our day. (Sierz, 2003, p.75) Docudramas will always be challenging to make for they have to balance the need to generate audiences with the need for an accurate rendering of issues. They will also be burdened with the struggle to balance drama with documentation. But the “potential social and political benefit to the viewing public justifies more careful exploitation of this important form.” (Sierz, 2003, p.75)
- All Relative to Einstein and Arthur; DRAMA EINSTEIN AND EDDINGTON SAT, BBC2, 9.10pm. (2008, November 22). Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), p. 19.
- Billen, A. (2003, October 6). The Lion and the Unicorn: Andrew Billen Enjoys an All-Too-Plausible Dramatisation of the Blair-Brown Relationship. New Statesman (1996),132(4658), 46.
- Mowat, C. L. (1955). Britain between the Wars, 1918-1940. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Rosenthal, A. (Ed.). (1999). Why Docudrama?: Fact-Fiction on Film and TV. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
- Sierz, A. (2003, November 24). The World Stage: Political Drama Should Not Only Reflect Reality but Offer Hope for Change. New Statesman (1996), 132(4665), 40+.