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Wonders Are Many: The Making of "Doctor Atomic" (2009)

John Adams , Peter Sellars , John Else  |  NR |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: John Adams, Peter Sellars
  • Directors: John Else
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: February 24, 2009
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001IXXYB0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,198 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Wonders Are Many: The Making of "Doctor Atomic"" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews

Production Description

The spectacular opening to Jon Else's critically acclaimed WONDERS ARE MANY - nuclear blast after blast in the desert, under the ocean, high in space - intimates what is to follow: a profound and triumphant fusing of art and science, humanity and technology, destruction and creation.

WONDERS ARE MANY: THE MAKING OF DOCTOR ATOMIC traces a dazzling double-helix trajectory: one thread follows composer John Adams and director Peter Sellars as they work to create Doctor Atomic, the strange and beautiful opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the first atomic bomb; the other recounts the actual historical events that underpin the stage drama. Masterfully interwoven with recently declassified footage of nuclear testing in the deserts of the Southwest and the frenetic backstage action of the San Francisco Opera, the film creates an explosive vortex of performers and physicists, past and present, all of which is anchored by the enigmatic figure of Oppenheimer and channeled into high art by the creative power of Adams and Sellars.

A magnificent pastiche of potent elements, WONDERS ARE MANY allows us to see history - and ourselves - in a new light: we learn the humanity in science; the regret in discovery; and, unforgettably, the law that "matter can be neither created nor destroyed," but only transformed.

Special Features

  • Filmmaker Audio Commentary
  • Filmmaker Biography

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Wonders are Many" is a fascinating film about the making of "Dr. Atomic", a 2005 opera by composer John Adams. The opera focuses on the complex and genius physicist, Robert Oppenheimer and his orchestration of the building of the atomic bomb. The opera specifically concentrates on the last 24 hours leading up to the actual detonation of the first test bomb at the "Trinity", Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1945. The film not only depicts the actual processes of the production, but also interweaves much historical, scientific, ethical and even poetic aspects of this crucial moment in time. This film, just as in the opera itself, begins and end with the heightened tension of ticking---the countdown to the Zero Hour.

I found this film to be very exciting, even though I have not yet had a chance to view the film of the Opera. History, art, physics and moral questions are beautifully interwoven in a way that helps the viewer not only learn many interesting facts, but provides much food for thought. "Wonders are Many" is a wonderfully creative treatment of a time period which we "all know about but don't really know". Although it happened over 60 years ago, this event holds urgent currency in modern time. War and destruction continue to rage in our world today, despite Oppenheimer's hope and belief that his creation would lead to a "war to end all wars".

Bravo to all involved for the powerful opera, "Dr. Atomic" and this fascinating film, "Wonders are all Around." I count down the time until I get to own and view the DVD of the opera.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Combination Resulting In One Great Film November 10, 2008
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Wonders Are Many is an intense movie that manages to shift back and forth between two fascinating documentaries resulting in one greater documentary.

One documentary describes how the opera Doctor Atomic, an opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the first atomic bomb, was created. Viewers get to hear composer John Adams and director Peters Sellers explain how and why this Opera came to be, get to see performers and crew add to the final product (including crew members creating props) and get to watch rehearsals leading up to the final production.

Intertwined with this documentary is another focusing on Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb which includes interviews made by Oppenheimer and those who knew him, footage of atomic bomb explosions, information World War II leading up to the decision to drop the atom bombs (such as fighting in Okinawa, casualty results etc.) and results of atomic bomb explosions such as radiation remnants and the remains of a government "ghost town" created to see how buildings and even stocks and bonds would hold up during an atomic bomb explosion. The documentary is even handed and should appeal to those who feel the atomic bombs should never have been dropped as well as those who feel America had no choice considering the cost in lives of an invasion.

What makes this movie so good is the way the film combines both documentaries, easily slipping back and forth between both to enable to viewer to see how the events inspired the composer and director and at the same time enabling the viewer to see so clearly how the opera addresses Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb.

I am forever watching documentaries on history and specifically World War II.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique perspective of the atomic bomb...and opera November 28, 2008
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When you walk into Wonders are Many, you are walking into an explosion of drama and documentary about the creating of Doctor Atomic, an opera which visualizes and personifies the atomic bomb and its creator, J. Robert Oppenheimer. The film really speculates from two points of view, the historical angle in which we see learn about the individual Oppenheimer amid visual explosions, and the present-day "making of" the opera, which focuses on commentary and behind-the-scenes with composer John Adams and director Peter Sellars.

What's evident from the get-go is the passion with which this docudrama was compiled. One would think it to be a challenge to pull off a film about a historical event and an opera; however, Jon Else, is able to, as we are treated to Sellars' insight as he leads his cast of performers amid the background of the San Francisco Opera. Sellars wants his opera to "come alive," the events to take on such life that the performers are visual representations of the emotion and power. There is a smooth transition from behind the scenes to background about Dr. Atomic, Oppenheimer.

Overall, a very interesting film that is visually stunning and unique.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many Wonders Indeed! October 27, 2008
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Continuing in my current obsession with John Adams' new opera, "Doctor Atomic" I recently learned of a documentary filmed at the time the opera was being created in San Francisco. Of course, I had to have it. Now I do.

What a fascinating film this is. It comes at you from two interesting perspectives as both historical documentary and a major art project. In easily digestable format director Jon Else combines interviews, rehearsal footage and commentary by the cast and creators of Doctor Atomic - weaving in the story of the development of the atom bomb and the Manhattan Project. All of it is narrated by the mellow voice of Eric Owens, the baritone who has sung (I beleive) every performance of the role of General Groves.

The marriage of these two stories into a cohesive whole works wonders itself, as a perfect balance is struck between following the creation of a new opera and the history of nuclear physics involved in creating the bomb. For those whom this sounds bizarre, to say the least, let me say, I can't think of anyone who's interest would not be held - or even riveted by the manner in which its done.

There is fascinating interview footage with Oppenheimer himself, disturbing shots and clips of bombs testings (not easy to watch) and one truly gets a sense of the project as well as a sense of the bizarre community that occupied Trinity. It was interesting as well to see and hear the singers approaching their music in the first rehearsals, taking suggestions from the composer who was still very much working on the piece, changing things as they went along. Peter Sellars can bother some folk, but his infectiousness and thoughtfulness clearly command the respect of all of his cast members, as well as the composer himself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars best "making of" a contemporary opera
Possibly the best "making of" a contemporary opera ever captured on video. For any student of serious music or performance, this is a must!
Published 8 months ago by grgeory j punch
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worthwhile
I had seen this film before and was impressed by the story and the quality of the filming. It's an excellent story of both the making of the opera and of the story behind the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Prudence J Hall
1.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be..
I figured they're would have been more clips of atomic bomb blast but it didn't deliver much of them. Read more
Published 18 months ago by iconicdave
4.0 out of 5 stars "Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man" - Sophocles
This is mainly a behind-the-scenes account of the making of the John Adams opera Doctor Atomic. The central character in the opera is J. Read more
Published on December 22, 2009 by Sanpete
5.0 out of 5 stars A review from a tiny participant in the story...
When I heard about this documentary, I just knew I had to see it. No only am I huge physics geek, but I am a great lover of the opera and other performing arts. Read more
Published on December 23, 2008 by Susan Tunis
4.0 out of 5 stars "Wonders Are Many" or "How To Learn To Stop Worrying and Make An Opera...
The Atomic Bomb & Opera. Three words you probably thought you'd never see used together. And yet that's exactly what the documentary, "Wonders Are Many," is all about: Making an... Read more
Published on December 18, 2008 by Mr.
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful introduction to the Making of Doctor Atomic
This documentary follows the creative process brilliantly.The muti talented John Adams is joined by Peter Sellars[who if not wrote assembled the libretto, and directed! Read more
Published on December 7, 2008 by A. Hogan
4.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable document of the intersection between science, art and...
Jon Else's exciting new documentary is full of many wonders. The film simultaneously explores scientist Robert Oppenheimer's work in developing the atomic bomb and director Peter... Read more
Published on November 29, 2008 by Nathan Andersen
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of five stars, but why full screen?
I fully and heartily concur with the other reviewers who have awarded this documentary five stars. But it is obvious that the original film was for wide-screen, and yet this DVD-R... Read more
Published on November 29, 2008 by RENS
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling
This is a chilling documentary of the making of the opera 'Doctor Atomic'. You follow the drama of the creative work while re-visiting the scientific, historic events that led to... Read more
Published on November 13, 2008 by Chrissy K. McVay
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