2007 - United States - 90 minutes
Director - Shi-Zheng Chen
Writer - Billy Shebar
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
This is a fascinating little film about three obsessions. In the young protagonist, it is an obsession to prove his worth and knowledge. In the older characters, we see an obsession to fame and an obsession of a culture.
Liu Xing has come to the United States from China in order to study for his PhD under the guidance of Professor Reiser who is noted for the Reiser Theory of cosmology. He is totally star-struck by Reiser and his openness. As Liu Xing labors at his studies he becomes convinced that his own theories about dark matter and it having a marked effect upon the universe are more and more valid. He hopes to make dark matter the subject of his dissertation, but he is shot down by Reiser. From that point, he begins a downward spiral toward tragedy.
Liu Xing is an extraordinary brilliant young man who is obsessed with his theory and his need to become successful so that he might rescue his parents from their grim existence in China. He is a proud young man, and as each of his goals is thwarted, he slowly submerges into madness. His is truly a tragic tale.
Reiser is one of those glad-hand guys we have all encountered. All is well until his ego is not being constantly fed. When this occurs, the selfish inner monster quickly rises to the surface. He is obsessed with his own glory and image.
The third obsession in the film is that of Joanna Silver. She is obsessed with all things Chinese. Because she is wealthy, she can feed her obsession by sponsoring Chinese students and hosting them at social and cultural events. Hers is a more benign obsession, but - because of circumstances - it is dangerous to Liu Xing.
These three characters are played by three excellent actors. Ye Liu plays Liu Xing to perfection. He opens the film with the face of a starry-eyed boy and ends with the face of a man driven to madness by circumstances and his own demons. Aidan Quinn is Reiser. He easily goes from the good guy to the selfish bastard in the blink of an eye. Quinn is a very good actor. Joanna Silver is given life by Meryl Streep. As with all her roles, Streep makes Joanna her own and shows her audience a sensitive woman not totally in touch with the harsh realities around her.
I must admit that I didn’t understand anything substantive as to the science in Dark Matter, and I’m sure that a better comprehension would make the film even more interesting. However, understanding the science is not a necessity to the enjoyment of the film. It is the characters, not the science, that makes this an engrossing look at three souls lost in their own preoccupations.
April 15, 2009