Professor Brian Greene, one of the world’s most prominent theoretical physicists, described in his book “The Elegant Universe” an interconnected cosmology, where particles of infinite minutia and grandiosity commingled to produce the essence of what we discern as life. Space and time, light and dark, these concepts exist within the same realm of understanding, namely the one that we cannot ever truly understand.
“The microscopic fabric of our universe is a richly intertwined multidimensional labyrinth,” he wrote, “within which the strings of the universe endlessly twist and vibrate, rhythmically beating out the laws of the cosmos.” Such pondering about the vastness of the universe has, surely enough, inspired great thinkers throughout the eons, scientists and theologians, specialists and laymen, dreamers and realists.
While this may seem the stuff of Nobel Prize award speeches, would you believe this material could be found at a comic book convention?
Or more specifically, a film festival at a comic book convention. It is through this lens of science and metaphysics that the charming independent science fiction film “Einstein’s God Model” centers itself. The film, a lovingly made yarn about love, parallel universes, death and, ultimately, comprehending life itself, is a paean to the great mysteries that consume the modern mind. In a nutshell, the film – written and directed by Philip T. Johnson – is about an anesthesiologist named Brayden (Aaron Graham) who, after losing his fiancee Abbey (Kirby O’Connell), discovers the existence of a mysterious contraption designed by Thomas Edison, whose purpose (it seems) is to make contact with the dead. Assisted by an ambiguously intentioned physicist (Kenneth Hughes, who also produced the movie) and a medium (Brad Norman), Brayden ventures beyond the temporal realm, into a quantum reality never before witnessed by the human mind.
The film, which won Best Picture at the recent Phoenix Comic Con Film Festival, was the product of a vacation in Hawaii. As Johnson told me, he was reading Greene’s “The Elegant Universe” and his mind started to ponder on the subject of string theory and quantum mechanics: “How would this apply to our lives and what happens after we die? … The idea of something traveling between parallel universes seemed like a metaphor for when we die and our soul goes to another place.”
I asked both Johnson and Hughes about the role of Judaism in the film. While there wasn’t Jewish imagery in the movie per se, “Einstein’s God Model” – at a meta-level – is inspired by some Jewish notions of death and the universe. Of course, Albert Einstein was Jewish, but that doesn’t factor into the film as much as the grander mysteries of the cosmos do. What this film conveys, poignantly at some moments, is the fragility of life and that death perhaps is not the end, only another phase of existence.
Hughes, though not Jewish himself, related to me that as a kid growing up in Los Angeles, he was surrounded by Jewish friends and came away with a positive experience. “I was impressed by the level of education in that community. I saw how, in the Jewish community, there was one thing that you could take with you, and that was education. There was the space to think about what God means, not just to the individual, but to the community, and the world at large.”
When the credits begin rolling, there is so much to digest. Yet, I was struck by how much material there was to think about long after I watched the film. As a meditation about the intersection of God and science, and how maybe there isn’t much of a disconnect between the two, there was much to consider. There is an integrity to the view the film takes, and one that the film, in its own way, displays with visual panache and extraordinary heart. It is something we must all wrestle with, and in the end, maybe we shall all be able to see the universe in that way, elegant as it always has been.
AJ Frost is a Phoenix-based writer and editor.