I went to see the film the other day. It is commendable in many ways. I liked the moment, surely lost on most viewers, when Einstein says to someone visiting the Institute in Princeton, “Have you met Dr Godel?”–who then disappears for the rest of the movie. But it irritated me that Oppenheimer was depicted as smoking in nearly every scene–when no one else was. Okay, he smoked a lot, but so did everyone else, so why only him doing it in the film? In general I disapprove of depicting smoking in movies, but presumably Christopher Nolan was making some sort of artistic point–but what point exactly? It gave the scientist a sleazy, obsessive appearance, but since heavy smoking was common in those days I’m not seeing that it has verisimilitude. It seemed like a lazy cheap way to suggest insight into character. Much better the high waistbands and western belt buckles.

4 replies
  1. Mark L
    Mark L says:

    Haven’t seen the film yet, but am planning to at some point. I’m seeing more and more smoking in films these days.

    Smoke is very atmospheric, lighting people have fun with its thick swirls and general haze – it is a useful medium to project light through and show us individual beams and shapes – these light shapes can’t be filmed without some such medium such as smoke or dust. So that could be a motivation for using it and possibly just for creating these effects around Oppenheimer.

    Perhaps there is some metaphor at play in it only being Oppenheimer smoking?

  2. Jeffrey Kessen
    Jeffrey Kessen says:

    I haven’t seen the flic and don’t intend to see it. Richard Feynman’s recollections of the Manhattan Project are enough for me. Someone really should make a movie about Feynman’s life—he was quite a character. That about smoking, a dreadful up-tik lately in the number of cigarettes I’ve been smoking—couldn’t possibly have anything to do with an as yet unresolved law-suit.

  3. Jeffrey Kessen
    Jeffrey Kessen says:

    Still love this old joke from John Huston. So, two producers lost in a desert, crawl their way finally to some kind of oasis (a good script). Just as they were about to lap up the pristine water. one says to the other: “Wait, let’s piss in it first”


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