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By Simon Cross
$1,880
pledged of $23,512 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

About


Richard Feynman is one of the most widely celebrated physicists of his generation. Following his death in 1988, a sealed envelope was discovered among his personal effects. Inside was a letter written by Feynman to his high-school sweetheart Arline, unearthing a private tragedy that he had suffered when he was just 28 years old.

In 1942, when Feynman was studying at Princeton, Arline was diagnosed with tuberculosis — then an incurable disease. Determined to make the most of what little time they had left, Feynman married her later that year in a private ceremony, and spent the next three years caring for her.

She finally passed away on June 16, 1945.

Feynman & Arline
Feynman & Arline

Two years after her passing Feynman wrote Arline a heartbreaking love letter, sealing it in the envelope that would remain unopened for the next 48 years.

Throughout the letter he struggles to reconcile two completely contrary sides to his personality — the dispassionate, rational physicist, and the hopeless romantic. He knows the senselessness of writing the letter, yet he cannot help but pour his heart onto the page.

Many writers have attempted to articulate the process of grief in their writing, but few have done it with the poignancy, eloquence, warmth, and humour of Feynman.

2018 marks the centenary of Richard Feynman’s birth, and to commemorate his legacy, we want to create a short film in which we will dramatise his letter.

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October 17, 1946

D’Arline,

I adore you, sweetheart. 

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don't only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you. 

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing. 

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can't I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don't want to be in my way. I'll bet you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I — I don't understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don't want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you. 

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Rich.

PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don't know your new address.

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If you recall your own relationships, are they linear stories with a start, middle, and end? Or are they more complex tapestries of images, impressions, and moments — half-remembered snapshots that accumulate as memories?

Our film will be a non-linear montage of key moments in the Feynmans' relationship — not their wedding day or their first date, but smaller, more intimate moments. Our approach will avoid traditional storytelling tropes. Instead, we will explore the visual language of memory. We will focus on texture, touch, smell and taste — a sensory collage of the fragments that stay with you when a relationship ends.

The main themes will be love and loss. In the letter, the strength of that love is portrayed simply and eloquently by one of the greatest minds of his generation. This beautiful and unusual document is part love letter, part self-help exercise. It shows a man struggling to move on. We want to explore how such a powerful mind copes with such profound grief.

If you're interested in seeing the full treatment, schedule, and budget, please feel free to contact us.

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The film will be produced by London-based production company, Simian Stories. Formed in 2015 by Simon Cross and Ian Tierney, together they have produced multiple award-winning films.

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So that's it! We don't want to overload you with information, but if you want to keep up-to-date with our project, please follow us! #feynmanfilm

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Risks and challenges

Our primary difficulty on this film will be accurately recreating the world of the 1940s on a limited budget. Attention to period detail will be key. We will take the following steps to ensure that the production values of our film appear authentic:

Locations: We have identified a number of period locations whose architecture and design are evocative of the 1940s. By using these locations as the backdrop to our story, we can imbue our film with an effortless authenticity.

Production design: We have lined up a number Art Directors with a solid track record in period design. Their expertise in sourcing period props will be essential in creating a faithful portrayal of Richard and Arline’s world.

Costumes, hair & make up: The fashions and hairstyles of the 1940s are instantly recognisable. Arline in particular wore her hair in a style that was highly distinctive. We have gathered together a large body of archive material to help our costume designer and make-up artist accurately recreate the style of the time.

We are fortunate in that we have the support of Feynman’s daughter Michelle, his friend and biographer Ralph Leighton, and the staff at Caltech University. Between them they have provided a wealth of resources to help us create a credible portrayal of Feynman and Arline.

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