Dimensions – Once Upon Our Reality
Rocco Helmchen, Johannes Kraas, supported by Zeiss-Planetarium Bochum
Film review by by Monika Staesche, Berlin
“Reality is merely an illusion. Albeit a very persistent one”.
With their new show “Dimensions – Once Upon Our Reality”, the “Dynamic Duo” of Rocco Helmchen (visuals and photography) and Johannes Kraas (music and sound design) embarks on their second journey beyond the limits of our perception – and sometimes of our imagination. While “Chaos & Order” tried to visualize mathematics and possibly made some people in the audience experience the beauty in it for the first time, here the subject we deal with is even bigger: What is reality?
We start with one of the most famous and ancient allegories on that question that we know: The audience finds itself inside Plato’s Cave. Are we like the people imprisoned in that cave that mistake the mere shadows watched on the wall for the real world? Or is there more?
As the cave slowly dissolves to the reality we perceive – in this case, a park laying in the sunshine –, we start our journey. It will take us from the very small to the very huge, from Mikro- to Makrocosmos, from the quantum world to the possibility of multiple universes.
The show is divided in four “chapters”: “Space Time”, “Quantum”, “Inner Space / Outer Space” and “Multiverse”. Every chapter is introduced by the narrator. The introduction does not only offer some explanations, but also poses questions that may direct thinking to a specific direction, providing some base for the visualizations that follow.
The show uses real world footage (sometimes time-lapse) combined with the visulization of either abstract geometrical (or chaotic) patterns as well as modelled/alienated NASA/ESA/ESO photos and alienated scientific visualizations, for instance the traces of elementary particles created by a collision inside a particle accelerator or the creation of gravitational waves by a black hole merger. Quite often, real world footage dissolves into abstract rendered footage and vice versa, the conversions being smooth and original, sometimes surprising. You may discover aspects and patterns in the architecture of common and well-known buildings you never realized before.
Apart from landscapes, there is some real world footage of scientific institutions (the names are provided via subtitles). Here, sometimes it would have been interesting to know why this was chosen because it isn’t always obvious. On the other hand, too much to read may “break” the flow and the immersion of the spectator. And sometimes it is quite clear, as for Geo600 and a gravitational wave visualization afterwards.
It may not always fair to compare, but if you like “Chaos and Order”, you may like this show as well. The added information is quite helpful, since the chosen subject is an extremely difficult one, its visualization is even more tricky, since many concepts are even beyond our imagination, cannot even be thought in terms we understand, only maybe via mathematics. So we should not expect to look at the absolute truth, it will remain a – very esthetic and beautiful – attempt to make the unimaginable visible to the audience. We can and should enjoy it, we can learn from it – nevertheless, it shows us the limits we have. Our brain needs something to hold on, to grasp – pictures or at least mathematical formula. On the other hand: As limited as we are, to quote: “We are a part of the cosmos. And through our existence, the universe has become aware of itself. ”That is no small consolation.
The show is created in 4k and provides a sharp imaging in all parts. The (surround) sound and the visuals complement each other well; the music is varied in character and pace, allowing the senses to rest between the quicker and more demanding parts.
A purely personal remark: After listening to the English as well as to the German version, I came to like the English version better – the timbre of the voice is somehow darker and, at least for me, seems more fitting.
As regards the audience, I would recommend it for adults and children 14+. With 50 minutes, it is quite a long show, and to really immerse and enjoy it, you need some understanding of the subjects it deals with. I would suggest some didactic material as well, as an offer to the interested viewer.
12th FullDome Festival, May 26, 2018