DIFF 2014 buzz: The Theory of Everything opens festival with a big bang

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in a scene from The Theory of Everything. Focus Features, Liam Daniel / AP photo
Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in a scene from The Theory of Everything. Focus Features, Liam Daniel / AP photo
Picking an opening movie for a film festival is no easy task. In essence, programmers are hunting for a release which meets three rather stringent criteria:

. Something new and exciting, which as few people as possible have seen before.

. Something enjoyable and universal enough to entertain a mixed invited crowd, among which there are many non-cinephiles itching to duck out of the cinema and rub shoulders at the glitzy after-party.

. But also something with heavyweight credibility behind it, an early Oscar buzz and, where possible, a worthy subject matter.

Even before the reels began to roll, it was clear the programers had picked a winner with Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything.

Best known as the documentary maker behind Project Nim and Oscar-winner Man on Wire - both excellent - director James Marsh is on less familiar turf adapting former wife Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.

While already released in USA, The Theory of Everything won't see screens in Europe until 2015, expected to go on general release in the UAE on January 29. Tick one.

As a moving portrait of the life of the 20th Century's most renowned mind - from his student days to diagnosis with motor neurone disease, through to his pioneering works, battles against his condition and the breakdown of his first marriage - it's both moving and important. Tick two.

And having seen the movie, we can report all the Oscar buzz surrounding Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking is utterly deserved. This is no easy role to play, but the British actor is utterly compelling.

As The National has noted elsewhere, The Theory of Everything goes head to head at DIFF with a similarly cerebral drama The Imitation Game, where Benedict Cumberbatch plays pioneering British computer scientist and WW2 Nazi code-cracker Alan Turing.

That movie has been picking up a pretty heavy buzz, too, but on the basis of the weepy faces we glimpsed on the way out of this international premiere, it will have to be pretty special to top this opening night event.

Published: December 11, 2014 04:00 AM

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