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The Theory of Everything

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Zhuo Yuan Wu

on 23 August 2015

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Transcript of The Theory of Everything

1. Hope
Most humans ultimately yearn for a successful life, one that is normal and peaceful. When we see the world in the perspective of Stephen, who has been affected by a paralysing disease, living ’normally’ with freedom is even more of a challenge, and is something he longs to become.
2. Dawning Realization
The moment of dawning realisation is captured in this scene when Steven is unable to control his hands and eat the salad. It is also noticed when he is unable to get up the stairs with assistance, and is almost as if he is trapped in his own house by the stairs, just like his own child, who is kept upstairs behind the barrier, except his child was kept behind the barrier for safety reasons, however Stephen was trapped by his motor neurone disease.

- Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
Eddie Redmayne’s striking resemblence to Stephen Hawking was- undoubtedly- a significant reason as to why he was casted; sources reported that he received the offer without an audition.

Redmayne has a similar physique to Hawking when he was younger- not muscular, nor puny. The actor shared a facial likeness to the theoretical physicist as well, and he himself later confessed that he was ‘never more grateful’ for his ‘freckles and red hair’.

Redmayne’s good relationship with the director, along with his strong work ethic may have also been a contributing reason to his casting. The actor shares that they shared ‘like-minded attitudes’ of ‘we have no idea how we’re going to do this, but we trust in each other to be brave enough to make mistakes.

In order to encapsulate Stephen Hawking’s personalty and demeanour, Redmayne undertook extensive research and was reportedly ‘completely absorbed within his role’. Not only did he study footage of Hawking and read his famous book A Brief History of Time, the actor also paid countless visits to motor neurone disease patients and interviewed medical personnel in order to gain a thorough, in-depth understanding of the disease. Redmayne paid attention to the smallest of details, for example after hearing that Hawking preferred to grow his fingernails long, he did so too.

Eddie Redmayne’s appearance, efforts and his tireless research allowed him to capture Hawking’s personality fully- both physically and in personality.

Our Scene
The chosen scene takes places on the evening Stephen receives his phD. He, along with Jane and four of his friends at Cambridge, celebrate this achievement over a dinner meal. As Stephen clumsily sets down his champagne glass after a toast, he cranes his neck and lifts a spoon of greens towards his lips, however his hands start shaking too much for him to do so.

Despite the loud clangs and clatters his cutlery makes against the porcelain plate, everyone is far too engrossed in their conversations to take notice of Stephen’s predicament. Suddenly overwhelmed by the sight of everyone’s hands- passing champagne, picking up cutlery, spooning food- he stands up and leaves the dining room after assuring a concerned Jane that it’s ‘all good’..

Stephen proceeds to go upstairs, however his paralysed legs coupled with shaky hands together prevent him from making much progress. He grapples futilely at the bars of the staircase, grunting laboriously as he tries to heave himself up. Meanwhile Stephen’s son, Robby, observes his father’s strenuous endeavour silently from atop the flight of stairs. Stephen assures him that ‘it’s okay, Robby’.
The Theory of Everything
by Angela Yang, Jessica Han, Yuan Wu & Yuqi Luo
This scene is set within Stephen and Jane’s abode; upon a carpeted staircase which Stephen is struggling to climb. Having started losing control over his hands and already unable to use his legs, he grapples at the bars of the staircase in a futile effort to ascend the flight as his son watches him from above. Here, the director fully conveys the severe and overwhelming nature of devastation through various technical techniques, including camera angles, lighting and visuals.

Camera angles
The lighting upon the staircase is a superficial white light; harsh and
bright, causing the staircase to appear rather desolate in contrast to the warm, golden glow of the dining room. In comparison to its diverse array of vibrant colours, only the sombre shades of black, white and red are seen in the staircase. The evident disparities between these two settings suggest Stephen’s alienation from the festivity of the occasion; it is as if he is living within an entirely separate world. Everything in this scene is the opposite to that in the dining room: while friends are celebrating and engrossed in their respective conversations, Stephen is heaving himself up the staircase unassisted, alone, distressed.

The grim distinction between the environment of the dining room and the staircase not only emphasizes the grimness of Stephen’s situation, but also establishes a foundation upon which the audience may proceed to empathise with Stephen on a more emotional level.

A lack of fill light casts shadows upon Stephen’s face and chest, hence making him seem dejected and rather miserable. Furthermore, when he raises his head to the top of the staircase, his face- under such harsh lighting- is paled and looks rather ghastly, conveying a sense of sickliness and weakness. By filming in a close proximity on an eye-level camera shot, the audience may feel more intimate with Stephen and thus feel a greater sense of sympathy towards him.
Later on, Stephen’s son Robby is filmed from a low angle shot- this view point could represent Stephen’s from the bottom of the stairs. A bitter sense of irony is achieved through the positioning of Stephen and his son. As an adult and a father, Stephen is supposed to demonstrate strength and authority over his son. However by filming Stephen by a high angle camera shot, it is suggested that the son is looking down upon Stephen in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Positioned much lower than his son, who is a most fragile life form, he appears most feeble and powerless. By switching the typical roles of power, the audience can fully understand the devastating ramifications motor neurone disease is beginning to have upon Stephen himself and how it has turned his life ‘upside down’.

Such an idea is further emphasized by the use of lighting. An intense white light is shone directly down upon Robby’s head, resulting in a god-like, seemingly ethereal appearance much like an angel’s. On the other hand, the lack of key light at the bottom of the staircase engulfs the struggling Stephen in shadowed surroundings, shrouded in darkness.
Bitter Irony
Better Understanding
It is noteworthy that when Stephen exits the dining room, he does not close the door fully behind him and there is a narrow gap, from which Stephen peers into as he is heaving himself up the staircase. This may be interpreted as Stephen’s desire to feel similarly happy and to live an ordinary life again.

In a way, Stephen’s struggle up the stairs reflects upon his predicament in reality; how he is struggling to overcome his motor neurone disease and its ramifications upon his life. However, the audience may clearly discern the futility of such an endeavour through the usage of camera shots. By filming Stephen from behind the bars of the staircase, it almost appears as if he is imprisoned in a jail, thus suggesting that he will never escape the ‘entrapment’ of his motor neurone disease.
The sound used is mainly non-diegetic, meaning that it is sourced from outside the film as background music. The soundtrack is of a minor key, which causes it to sound melancholy and ominous. The main instruments used- piano and violin- play relatively high-pitched melodies that sound particularly shrill without any baseline. Without any rich and deep low-pitched harmonies, the melody sounds fragile and unstable. The fluctuating tempos of fast and slow further emphasize this, and may represent to Stephen's emotional instability in this scene. By slurring the melody, the scene lacks liveliness, sharpness and focus.

Non-diegetic Sound
There is little diegetic sound in this scene, which clearly contrasts against the merry, bustling chatter within the dining room. Stephen does not say much, choosing instead to simply grunt and groan as he struggles to heave himself up the stairs. These sounds are accentuated in volume, and the background noise of the guests' chatter is muted, which suggests how his struggle is a personal one and highlights his physical deterioration through his inability to do an action considered so simple. The audience’s empathising reaction of helplessness and pity is further heightened by the fact that Stephen does not throw tantrums nor mourn his losses, but instead chooses to quietly bear the burden unaided, even assuring his son that he is ‘okay’.
Diegetic Sound
The director utilises a range of technical devices and skills such as: camera angles, visuals, lighting and sound to evoke an overall sense of entrapment, helplessness and devastation, which in turn elicits great sympathy for Stephen from the audience.

Personal Struggle
- Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking
Felicity Jones was casted as Stephen’s wife, Jane Hawking, in the movie The Theory of Everything.

To begin, Jones was an experienced actress, having started her career from the young age of eleven years old. Similarly to her co-star Eddie Redmayne, she was offered the job ‘on the spot’ after reading through the script with him and ‘acing it’, because they got on so well.

Jones’ petite yet graceful figure gives her the air of sophistication and warmth necessary to encapsulate Jane’s feminine yet fierce charm. Elegant as she is, Jones also does not shy from portraying her character’s fierce determination and her profound strength in times of difficulty.

Alike Redmayne, Jones ‘was absolutely specific about capturing the essence of Jane, someone who is formidably strong, intelligent with an extraordinary backbone, but with a wonderful fragility, a warmth.’ To begin, she visited motor neurone disease patients and interviewed the patients’ guardians in order to fully understand and empathise with the experience that Jane went through when caring for her disabled partner. Jones was most attentive in acting as Jane; capturing the woman’s speech patterns and mannerisms so well that Jane herself exclaimed that ‘when I saw her on the screen, I thought, 'My goodness, that's me!’
The film is set in the mid-20th century, beginning in 1963 when Stephen Hawking is studying at Cambridge University. The 1960s, also known as the Swing Sixties was a period of time when many scientific discoveries were being made, milestones being reached in terms of space travel, and significant changes in politics, music and fashion culture. This idea of discovery and change is heavily played in the film, a recurring theme, as Hawking's theory of evolution performed a major role in shaping modern science. Britain is also known for its unpredictable wet weather conditions emphasised by the alternating lighting of dimness and brightness, this sets the mood for particular scenes, such as the joy of university life or devastation of disease. By retaining the authenticity of the time and location, it allows the audience to recreate and return to that time period.

The various scenes are set where buildings that represent the historical aspects of the time can be seen. This is shown a number of times when Cambridge's impressive Gothic architecture is displayed. The chosen scene was set in a place of familiarity, in the dining room and staircase of Hawking's abode. Many of the choices were based on the real life occurrences in his life and allows the audience to appreciate the way of life in 1960s.

The costumes worn within the film demonstrates the period in which it occurs. This is shown by the attire worn by the people attending university; many of the students and professors are seen in black suits, woollen jackets, cloaks and ties opposed to the causal clothes that are commonly worn to university nowadays. It can be deemed too formal for our decade and only worn at formal functions or at business conventions. The women in the film also wear dresses of longer lengths, deeming formality and modesty with 'calmer' colours (ie. no hot pink). The costume also depicts and gives background to their status in society; a class of middle-class educated people.

It is worthy to note that in the chosen scene, Stephen Hawking is seen wearing suspenders. Suspenders straps worn over the shoulders to hold up trousers. Wearing them not only makes Stephen appear child-like, but also places him in a weaker position by suggesting that he is not as physically capable as his friends, as he requires 'support’.
There were a number of props used to recreate the the original scene; everyday household appliances found in a 1960s abode such as vases, cutlery and candles. They are used to emphasize the normality of the house: a warm, cheerful atmosphere. This may reflect on Steven's wish to spend a normal life with everyone else. However, it is also a use of irony as the situation is the exact opposite of reality.

When Hawking leaves the room, the staircase is used as a prop to 'support' him from falling down as well as posing as an obstacle from reaching his son. This indicates the internal battle he is constantly in, a struggle against the limitations of his condition. The staircase is steep and long, signifying the long and difficult journey ahead of him, where he is only at the beginning.

Use of Props
When they are celebrating the success of Stephen achieving his PhD, his surroundings are of a typical house, with a stereotypical dining table, chairs and lamps. The props used to set up the scene emphasises the feeling of normality, and shows that despite the circumstances, their life is indifferent.

The lighting in this scene creates a natural light, one that would normally be in a house. It’s warm and softens all the edges, blurs the tiredness, and makes people look happier than what they actually are. The lighting creates a sense of authenticity, and the warm feeling the lighting create suggests a sense of belonging among friends. The lighting also creates a hopeful, happy mood, and depicts the emotions felt during celebration, however it's not overdone by 'crazy' lights that resemble ones at a nightclub, and emits a sense of maturity and sophistication. The shadows surrounding the edge of the scene allows the focus to change to the dinner table, which is the main subject of the scene. The lighting is relatively bright and clear, but is not blindingly bright and has the effect of highlighting the vibrant colours of the food.

When the shot changes to a close-up of Stephen’s face, the use of fill light creates faint shadows, enabling the lighting around him to look neutral, and the colours around look faded, which brings attention to the time period. This effect also highlights Stephen’s facial expressions, which at this point in time, is stretched into a wide smile. The two candles that sit on the dinner table is not only a prop, but a strong light that illuminates and reflects on the champagne bottle, allowing a bright green colour to be emitted from the champagne bottle.

The scene starts off with a medium shot, and slowly zooms out to a long shot at the dinner table, which implants an idea in the audience that the celebration is an important and cheerful gathering, seen from the perspective of the head of the table, which in this case, is Steven. On the surface, the world is his oyster; the camera is placed at a slightly lower angle, and looks up on Steven. This emphasises the fact that he has just achieved a PhD and the importance of the achievement to Stephen. This shot hides a lot of the vulnerability he feels as a victim of ALS, and reflects a false sense of normality of his life.

As the scene progresses, a close up shot at eye level is made, allowing viewers to feel more comfortable with the character. The shot clearly focuses on Stephen's face expression, with his mouth stretching into a beam. The lighting and cameras work together in this case to create a sense of joy, implying a new 'beginning'.

As this shot does not include Stephen, it can be assumed that the scene filmed is in Stephen's perspective and is what he sees through his eyes. A medium shot at eye level is made, where the camera lens focuses on Jane and blurs out the other friends who are at the dinner table, emphasising the importance of Jane in Stephen's life.
In this scene, diegetic sound mainly refers to the conversation between Jane and Stephen's friends. At the beginning of the scene, there is cheerful chatter over the dinner table as they celebrate and congratulate Stephen's obtainment of his PhD. A friend of his cracks a joke and merry laughter is heard, which conveys a sense of festivity and happiness.

The scene then morphs into a dawning realisation of Stephen, when he abruptly left the room, then his endeavour of getting up the stairs.

The scene is set at Stephen and Jane’s home, where they invited a few friends over for dinner one night. A reason this scene was set in their own home is that it gives the director a chance to show the audience what their house is like. We can tell from this scene that the owner of the house is of middle class, as the interior of the house is not overly extravagant, nor is it very big. From this, we can assume that they do not have too much money, being university students, and they may not be able to afford an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant. The champagne bottle that can be seen on the dinner table suggests that there are not any waiters, cooks or people to serve them, denoting the fact that it’s a relatively casual dinner, a small act of celebration among the people who are close to Stephen.

Setting the scene at home also emphasizes the fact that being at home is much more comfortable for a person with a disease that prevents them from moving freely. Being at home, they won’t be judged by the onlookers who are also having dinner at the same restaurant. Having dinner at home with friends allows the atmosphere to become more personal compared to having a dinner in a restaurant, where the space is being shared with other people.

In the second part of the scene, a focused shot of everyone’s hands is made. The hands in this scene are moving freely, passing wine and using cutlery, and is a symbol of capability that Steven lacks. Having functional hands is necessary as it has the capacity to allow humans to do even the smallest things, and its importance is not something that can be realised until its lost.

As Steven starts to struggle, it can be noted that the lighting surrounding him becomes slightly darker, especially when the blurred back of Jane can be seen. The flames in the background continued to burn brightly, even as he was stuck in his own world of troubles. The back light used in this scene picks out the subject, and the false impression of Steven’s happiness starts to slowly fade away at this point, as the scene goes into slow motion and the dawning realisation of his illness hits him.

However, throughout the scene, no evident decrease in the brightness of the lighting can be noticed, and this almost gives the impression that the world is mocking him; everyone else, the rest of the world is still happy, and Steven is the only one, the only shadow in the perfect picture.

As Steven excuses himself from the dinner table and leaves the dining room, the lighting becomes noticeably darker, especially when the inside view from the crack of the door can be seen. This scene employs little fill light, which casts strong shadows and obscures the audience from seeing where he went and emits a sense of mystery and darkness from the physical and mental pathway Steven has chosen to take as he leaves the dining room. The shadows surround the scene, creating an ever-shrinking circle of his own problems, doom and frustrations, which slowly close in on him. The mood of the scene gradually changes from happiness and celebration to emptiness.
Shots of clinking of champagne glasses are made during this scene, as well as the highlighting Stephen’s disability, which is the main focus of this part of the scene. The camera angle is level with his hands, conveying that Stephen is no longer in tune with the conversations going on around him. The realisation of the difference between his and other people’s mobility shocks him. What he may have gradually accepted overtime, what he deemed as normal and part of his life is not a part of other people’s life. The camera first focuses on the hands of Stephen’s, then compares it to everyone else’s hands that are capable of holding cutlery, toasting, emphasizing on ALS’ symptoms. The camera directs the audience to notice the movements of hands, and is played in slow motion, stretching out the every single movement, reminding us of how these movements are usually completed in a blink of an eye, but for Stephen it’s a time-consuming struggle. Eventually, this realisation became too heavy too bear, making Stephen stand up and leave the table abruptly. There’s also a medium shot of the door which depicts the location of Stephen’s seat in relation to the doorway. He sits right next to the door, and this may be a choice made by the director due to the character’s supposedly immobility.


The sound the audience hears in this scene is from Stephen’s point of view, which allows the audience to empathise and understand his emotions better.
This view point is made evident when the clatter and clink of cutlery gradually increases in volume and overrides the chatter, which has become muted. This refers to how Stephen is steadily tuning out of the conversation as he realizes how he cannot control his hands anymore, and starts to become absorbed within a dawning sense of devastation. In addition, the volume of chatter returns to normal once Stephen stands to exit the room. Here, the audience may infer Stephen’s emotions of dislocation despite his vocal reassurance of ‘all’s good’, as they experience the scene in Stephen’s shoes.

Click and listen to the soundtrack accompanying the scene
Note: The scene starts at 42:14 of the movie, and ends at 44:45.
Full transcript