photo courtesy of nationalgeographic.com
National Geographic’s new series “Genius,” following Albert Einstein’s life, airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Based on the 700-page biography of Einstein by Walter Isaacson, the show is filmed through a series of flashbacks. The viewer goes from watching a young Einstein, played by Johnny Flynn, to old Einstein, played by Geoffrey Rush. Both actors do an amazing job bringing Einstein to life by showing his uniqueness, brilliance and insensitivity.
The show’s use of flashbacks not only provides the back and forth to fill in facts and give insight into the making of Einstein’s career as a physicist, but also gives a greater understanding as to how he deals with people. Einstein’s brain is never far from the concepts of time, space, relativity and nature as God- the preoccupation often getting in the way of his inter-personal relationships.
The series opens with the horrific shooting of Einstein’s friend Walter Ratheneu and a German statesman who is Jewish in June 1922. The shooting is by a right wing nationalist party foretelling the rise of the Nazis, to which the show gives historical background. The rise of Nazism will eventually force Einstein to leave Germany along with his second wife Elsa, who is also his cousin, and immigrate to America. The next scene takes the viewer to a married, old Einstein getting friendly with his secretary. The surprise of the series is that Einstein was quite a ladies man. His second wife Elsa is well aware of the relationship with his secretary, but seemingly tolerates it.
Young Einstein has problems with his strict school. He day-dreams about the concept of “time” and is thrown out of his class for disrespect to a teacher. Even at school Einstein stands out as different, his complicated brain being too big to be confined in such a strict atmosphere. He knows this regimented school is not for him. Flynn, as young Einstein, exudes a confidence and determination. Young Einstein butts heads with his father, telling him that he plans to become a professor and “think for the sake of thinking.” He leaves school and is sent to relatives to continue his studies, where he excels at math and physics.
The series is filmed beautifully, and old Einstein looks physically identical to the Einstein most may expect. If you are interested in the private life of Einstein, this series will be enjoyable. It gives a new perspective of Einstein the person, and does not lack drama. The first episode ends perfectly with Einstein meeting his classmate and first wife, Mileva Maric, she has a limp and higher math scores than him- Einstein may have met his match.