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Filming the Science of Copenhagen
Filming the Science of Copenhagen

Visualizing the Uncertainty Principle 


"The scene where Heisenberg talks about the Uncertainty Principle," explains director Howard Davies, "where at one point he talks about an electron being here, there, everywhere and nowhere -- I kept putting off, because I really didn't know how to do it."

It was a matter of trying to find what images made sense to me, to exemplify the science -- then hopefully it would make sense to the audience.

"I knew the scene was going to start at the dinner table and that Heisenberg and Bohr would end up having a big fight.

I also felt that Heisenberg had to somehow pin Bohr down and demonstrate to him how right he was with the uncertainty principle.

I kept on shuffling the scene off and finally in the second week of shooting it dawned on me how to do it."
 


Shooting the Scene 


"I thought the best way to shoot the scene was to use a torch," says Davies.

"Historically we know Niels Bohr use to stride about the place, and it was difficult to get him to stop and listen.

When Heisenberg says 'he's here, he's there' -- using the pacing Bohr as an example of an electron moving in space -- I thought we'd have Heisenberg switch off all the lights in the room. This gets Bohr in the dark as he's moving about, and then Heisenberg shines a torch on him.

I tried the idea out on my Director of Photography and he said 'it'll work, but we need a steady cam.'

I then talked with the two actors and they said 'it's perfect, we can do it.'

In the end I think I cracked the scene, it's interesting and original, and I think it carries the audience."
 

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