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Copenhagen (PBS Hollywood Presents)

27 customer reviews

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(May 13, 2003)
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$299.11 $32.79

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Inspired by actual events which have baffled and intrigued historians for years, this Tony Award-winning drama by Michael Frayn (Spies, Noises Off) comes to life in this stirring presentation. At a 1941 meeting, two brilliant physicists and longtime friends, Denmark's Niels Bohr (The Crying Game's Stephen Rea) and Germany's Werner Heisenberg (The Road to Perdition's Daniel Craig), find themselves on opposite sides of World War II. Heisenberg's covert trip at great risk to see Bohr and his wife, Margrethe (Reckless' Francesca Annis), in Copenhagen results in disaster. Why did Heisenberg really go to Denmark, what did the two men discuss, and what happened during this pivotal meeting which became a defining moment of the modern nuclear age? "Among the most exhilarating, challenging and involving two hours you ever spend in a theater!" - The Nation

This 2002 film, based on the play by Michael Frayn, imagines what might have happened between the physicists Niels Bohr (Stephen Rea, The Crying Game) and Werner Heisenberg (Daniel Craig, The Road to Perdition) on a particular night in September of 1941. Heisenberg was collaborating with Nazis in Germany; Bohr, a Jew, was living in occupied Denmark but had contact with physicists on the Allied side. Something in this meeting destroyed their longstanding friendship; Frayn envisions their ghosts--and that of Bohr's wife, Margrethe (Francesca Annis, Dune)--reliving, arguing, and fantasizing about a conversation in which an innocent topic like skiing could slide into a dangerous discussion of physics and politics. This skillfully woven and well-acted conversation, far from being a static talk-fest, has all the dynamism of a psychological thriller. Our intentions, like the particles at the heart of physics, can never be known for certain. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Stephen Rea, Daniel Craig, Francesca Annis
  • Directors: Howard Davies
  • Writers: Howard Davies, Michael Frayn
  • Producers: Bettina Bennewitz, Eamon Fitzpatrick, Gordon Ronald, Karen Robinson Hunte, Mary Mazur
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 13, 2003
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008RGZG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,729 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Copenhagen (PBS Hollywood Presents)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 2, 2004
Format: DVD
Most viewers of this extraordinary play believe that it doesn't answer the question of why Werner Heisenberg came to Copenhagen in 1941 to visit his mentor Niels Bohr. And this is true: playwright Michael Frayn does not give a definitive answer to that intriguing question. But he does give an interpretation.
We must go to the "final draft" of their recapitulation of what happened--the "their" being the three of them, Heisenberg, Bohr and his wife Margrethe, who appear as ghosts of themselves in the now empty Bohr residence. In the scene that didn't happen, instead of walking away from Heisenberg in the woods, Bohr contains his anger and confronts his one-time protege. He tells Heisenberg to do the calculation to determine how much fissionable material would be necessary to sustain a chain reaction.
Heisenberg had believed without doing the calculation that the amount was somewhere in the range of a metric ton. As he does the calculation in his head he realizes that the amount would be much, much less, only 50 kilos. This changes everything because it made the bomb entirely possible. Frayn's point is that it is far better that Bohr did not tell Heisenberg to do the calculation because if he had, it is possible that Nazi Germany would have developed an atomic bomb under Heisenberg's direction.
But this does not answer the question of why Heisenberg came to Copenhagen. Margrethe has her own answer: he came to show himself off. The little man who is now the reigning theoretical physicist in Germany had come to stand tall and to let Bohr, who was half Jewish, know that he had the ability to save him from the Nazis.
This is the "psychological" answer and it plays very well.
Read more ›
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Valerie A. Lord on September 30, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was fortunate to see this play during it's Broadway run. While it was brilliantly acted, directed and was able to add one chilling element the film can't (the onstage audience in the elevated gallery, always looking like a silent jury)at times I had trouble following when we were seeing a flashback, an inner dialogue, or plot development. (The physics in the play is quite well presented but trust me, don't have that second tequilla shot before the curtain, no matter what!You really have to be on the ball for this one.) However, now having seen the film twice, many things come clear. The magic of film allows the players to think private thoughts without us mistaking them for side comments being made under the breath. Also, it is very clear when we are listening to the ghosts and the live players. But what REALLY gave me an ah-ha moment was when I finally saw that the play is crafted to mimic the act of nuclear fission. Instead of a neutron colliding with and splitting an atom into several directions, setting off a chain reaction, we witness two brilliant physicists colliding, also under forced circumstances and the split is represented by the various possible outcomes of that collision. We view several versions of the same encounter, each with different implications and motives. I can't wait to see this again and see where bells "ding" for me this time. The score is haunting and adds a great deal, as solo piano is unsurpassed in evoking a sense of isolation and loneliness. Acting is uniformly solid. I know I'll get lambasted for this, but I really preferred this cast over the b'way cast, especially Steven Rea, who added just a touch of melancholy to the role that I don't remember in the original. Give it a try. You may come away with the uneasy feeling that in a roundabout way, these men may have saved our planet.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. on September 8, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you want to understand Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and other aspects of physics, watch Copenhagen.
If you want to see brilliantly acted characters, watch Copenhagen.
If you want to be pulled into a wonderful work of moral complexity, watch Copenhagen.
Copenhagen brings to life questions of history, science, friendship and morality as it seelessly twists together dramatic dialogue and scientific explanations to the point that the science is the dialogue.
How it does this and still avoid becoming esoteric and stilted I can't explain, but it does.
That so much of the play is a conversation between ghosts seems like dry humor, since two men who practically defined the nature of an atom must become supernatural just to speak to each other once more.
True, this is clearly a filmed stage play as opposed to being a true movie, but the power of the performances and the beauty of the concept more than makes up for this forgivable condition. Steven Rea alone makes the film worthwhile.
You may not laugh out loud.
You may not cry your way through a box of tissues.
You may not dig your finger nails into the arms of your chair. But, if you give this film a chance, you will enjoy it.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By ophelia99 on January 16, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Although it does help to have a little background -- in my case college level physics and chemistry -- the play does such a brilliant job of getting across the little bit of physics one needs to understand what the characters are talking about that the film can be enjoyed by a total humanities person. (I watched this with someone with no significant science background, and she had no trouble following it.) What is really gripping here is the human drama, wonderfully written and acted, and the final, chilling revision of the past the ghosts try as a thought experiment.
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