I first wrote here in 2015 about DAU, the unusual film project based to some extent on the life of Landau. Parts of the film first were shown in Paris early in 2019, and this past year started appearing on the DAU website. I’d been looking forward to seeing Gross, Yau, Rovelli and others in the film, so paid to watch one of the first parts, DAU. Degeneration, when it became available last year. It’s over six hours long, for a review, see here. I ended up doing a certain amount of fast-forwarding, was disappointed to only see Nikita Nekrasov and Dmitri Kaledin, none of the other math/physics world figures I had heard had participated.
DAU largely was funded by Russian oligarch Sergei Adoniev. For an excellent article discussing the project and its context in current Russian culture, see Sophie Pinkham’s article Nihilism for Oligarchs.
There wasn’t much physics in DAU. Degneration, but evidently it plays a significant role in other parts of the film. According to the DAU website,
Real-life scientists, who were able to continue with their research in the Institute, included: physicist Andrei Losev; mathematicians Dmitri Kaledin and Shing-Tung Yau; string theorist Nikita Nekrasov; Nobel-Prize winning physicist David Gross; neuroscientist James Fallon; and biochemist Luc Bigé. “One group was researching string theory and another researching quantum gravity. These groups hated each other. One stated there were 12 dimensions, the other claimed there were 24. The string theory group believed there couldn’t be 24 dimensions. The quantum gravity group believed that the other scientists were narrow-minded,” explained Khrzhanovskiy.
Now available is a part which seems to more centrally involve physics, DAU. String Theory, which is described as follows:
Nikita Nekrasov is a scientist, a theoretical physicist who studies our world and other possible worlds. He refuses to make a choice between mathematics and physics, between one woman and another, as he ponders the existence of the multi-universe. At scientific conferences, attended by eminent foreign scientists and a rising younger generation of physicists alike, Nekrasov gets carried away debating the beauty of string theory. He attempts to explain to all of his women – Katya, the librarian, Zoya, the scientific secretary, Svetalana, the head of department – about the theory of his own polygamy, and the possibility of having enough feelings to satisfy everyone.
Multiple universes have always been advertised with “in some other universe you’re dating Scarlett Johansson”, relating the idea to multiple partners in this universe is an innovation.
I haven’t yet watched DAU. String Theory, will likely find time for that soon. I’m worried that I’ll still not get to see Gross, Yau, Rovelli and others though, and lack the time and energy to look through all the other parts of the film. I’d like to crowd-source a solution to this problem: if anyone watching these things can let the rest of us know in which parts (at what times) well-known math/physics personalities appear, that would be greatly appreciated.