Review by Joseph Fayed
The new Netflix documentary A Trip to Infinity by directors Jonathan Halperin and Drew Takahashi tackles the concept of infinity, led by experts ranging from renowned physicists to mathematicians to philosophers who offer their perspectives on the concept. The most common thread between their insight is that there is no finite answer to what infinity truly is.
Set against the backdrop of different animation styles, the documentary is divided into chapters on how infinity is approached from our real-world perspective. In one memorable early sequence in the film, infinity is presented as this infinite hotel with an endless number of rooms that keep multiplying when more guests check into this hotel.
The sequence is shot in the style of Steamboat Willie and is the most engaging animation we have presented in the film that truly breaks down the complex information being told by a voice-over. One recurring element of the film is the idea that we, as humans, are such small fragments of this big wide universe.
One, like myself, may not fully understand the concept of infinity outside of what has been taught in a school classroom, but the aforementioned example about how small we are in this big universe is admittedly underused when discussing how vast something like a black hole can be.
The segment discussing black holes in the universe does differ from the rest of the documentary when each interview subject is given a small black sphere to hold. At this point, the interviews seem to turn from how mathematics is applied to understanding infinity to how we present it to ourselves. One of the mathematicians, Steve Strogatz, uses this sphere to explain how this object is only a reflection of infinity and not an accurate representation. I could not help but laugh at that moment when I noticed how much more self-aware he is than the directors are before quickly remembering what his profession was.
It is pointed out towards the end of the film that humans are bound by rationality and creativity and that we can not be infinite. We are bounded by ourselves, essentially. There are no definite answers to be given about this. Yet, it does feel defeating to have spent ninety minutes learning about the concept of infinity only to be told that it is nearly impossible to visualize it.
Ultimately, A Trip to Infinity has interesting moments, but when broken down, its segments could have easily been featured on the Netflix series Explained instead of as a feature-length documentary.
A Trip to Infinity is now streaming on Netflix.