One of the most fascinating concepts for me has always been time travel. It is something that appeals to the imagination, often involving all kinds of paradoxes, but also endless possibilities. Fortunately, there are also a lot of films that play with time (see my personal top 10 here) and for some people they are so inspiring that it has greatly influenced their lives. This documentary shows how the story of H.G.Wells and the film The Time Machine from 1960 became an obsession for Ronald Mallet and Robert Niosi, who both got inspired in a different way.
Ronald Mallet is a theoretical physicist who, because of the death of his father when he was eleven, is willing to do everything he can to meet him again. He wanted to understand the theories of Einstein and planned a path for himself to get there, while he kept his motivation for doing it to himself. He has since become a professor at a university and is conducting research into changing time. Robert Niosi, who works as a “stop motion” animator, had the dream to recreate the “Time Machine” time machine in detail and even upgrade it with the best materials. It became a project that would cost him years.
Director Jay Cheel (who can also be heard weekly during the Filmjunk podcast) has made a documentary that is visually very impressive. Whether it is Niosi who manufactures parts of his time machine or a shot of a Mallet device that could influence time, they have been filmed with great attention to detail and composition, and that is not always the case with documentaries. It makes How To Build a Time Machine a fine film that shows that our obsessions can drive us in different directions, sometimes resulting in an object that others can appreciate and sometimes a career in a particular field. That obsession and passion come out nicely which is contagious.