Synopsis

Four 1950's cultural icons (Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Senator Joseph MacCarthy) who conceivably could have met and probably didn't, fictionally do in this modern fable of post-WWII America. Visually intriguing, the film has a fluid progression of flash-backs and flash-forwards centering on the fictional Einstein's current observations, childhood memories and apprehensions for the future.

Director

Nicolas Roeg

Cast

Michael Emil
as The Professor
Theresa Russell
as The Actress
Tony Curtis
as The Senator
Gary Busey
as The Ballplayer
Will Sampson
as Elevator Attendant

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by budmassey 10 /10

A tantalizing convergence.

What if Marylin Monroe, Albert Einstein, Joe Dimaggio and Senator McCarthy were to come together in a mind-bending evening of relativity?

This delightful roman à clef never uses the actual names of the characters it so thinly veils and scathingly exposes not only for the individuals they must have been, but also for what they came to represent over time. If you are confused by allegory, or if you like your movies served up predigested and mushy, you won't like this film. It is a demanding opus that rewards on many levels the viewer with the intelligence to appreciate it.

Dropping, for the time being, the rigorous avoidance of using the real names of the characters, we see Einstein, about to deliver a pacifist speech to a United Nations hell-bent for nukes, being visited by Marylin Monroe, after filming the notorious Seven Year Itch scene that some say led to the end of her marriage with Joe Dimaggio. They have a lovely interplay in which Einstein stumbles with suitable professorial clumsiness around the innocence of perhaps the greatest sex symbol of modern times.

Enter Senator McCarthy who thinks Einstein is a Red. He is determined to extract Einstein's assurance that he will support the activities of the House Unamerican Activities Committee while delivering the ultimate weapon in the name of peace. Add Joe, a surprisingly fragile and vulnerable person perhaps not perfectly cast as Gary Busey, who hates Marylin's exhibitionism and believes Einstein has become her lover, even though Marylin only wants to show Einstein that she understands the Special Theory of Relativity.

But there's more.

Just like each of us, these characters have their deepest fears, which they reveal one by one in haunting flashbacks. It is these weaknesses, ultimately, that lend humanity to figures we cannot help but see almost exclusively in the abstract today. Finally, we see the shocking terror of Einstein's vision, and the statement of the movie becomes clear. It is a powerful and memorable moment.

Insignificance is one of my top five movies of all time. It is utterly amazing.

Reviewed by pwoods1 8 /10

Enjoyment, like space-time, is relative

Nicolas Roeg's projects are variable to say the least, but are never less than interesting. "Insignificance" is obviously, first and foremost, an adapted stageplay: it's wordy and pretty-much 'room-bound'. BUT, it pays to view this film more than once: the underlying themes are not overtly presented and, what's more, it takes a while to adjust to the juxtaposition and role-reversals of the four protagonists: Einstein, McCarthy, Munroe, and DiMaggio.

Einstein is wracked by guilt over Hiroshima yet fancies the simplicity of a sexual liaison with Munro; Munro is sick of being seen as a bimbo and craves intellectual credence; Senator McCarthy is at the height of his witch-hunting powers but is an impotent sleazebag; DiMaggio is insecure about his celebrity, self-obsessed, and prone to violence. Each of them contains the seeds of their own destruction. Each character has a troubled, abused/abusive past and a questionable future. Gradually, we see that obsession itself is the central theme. America's obsession with its postwar cultural icons and mores; the obsessions of the protagonists for something none can have: peace-of-mind and/or happiness.

Compared with the theory of relativity, a proposed unified-field theory and, indeed, the cosmos itself, all the aspirations and interactions of Roeg's protagonists seem insignificant. Yet these aspects of the physical universe (it's all quantum, trust me!) affect us when they are applied to the development of the means to destroy us. Monroe's mention of the principle behind the neutron-bomb (without naming it as such) is not an anachronism per se, but can only be understood by a contemporary audience. Indeed, ALL the references within the script are only accessible to a knowledgeable viewer: one au fait with '50s occurrences/personality cults and how they affect us in the 21st century.

This film and its screenplay are either very, very clever, or extremely opaque and pretentious. Ultimately, however, probably insignificant.

live long and prosper :)

Reviewed by gevalher N/A

This flick has everything but insignificance!

It was late at night, and fighting with a dream that refused to take over me I finally saw the movie...

It blew my mind away... Marilyn, Di Maggio, McCarthy & Einstein all in a small hotel room!

I really enjoyed the characterization of Marilyn by Theresa Russell, and the other actors played their parts with grace too.

A nostalgic trip to the yesterday. This movie is now in the list of my favorites.

If you have the chance to see it, don't miss it!

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