An Experimental, Intellectually Stimulating Documentary
Within the opening few minutes of The Most Unknown, it’s clear this is a documentary as untested and experimental as the subject matter explored. Following 9 scientists in their chosen fields of study, The Most Unknown is a fascinating, intellectually challenging documentary that refuses to simplify its subject matter or sensationalise any part of its 90 minute run time. The result is an educational, intellectually stimulating journey that subtly depicts its subject matter in its most raw form which may not be to everyone’s taste.
The Most Unknown’s format is unusual and does take a while to adjust. Acting as a proverbial “Pass The Baton”, the film begins with a microbiologist explaining their field of expertise and hopes for the future before visiting a physicist and learning about their chosen field. The microbiologist then bows out and the physicist takes centre stage. From here, he then visits another scientific specialist and the pattern continues. This continues through to the final frames of the film, periodically changing the scientific perspective while exploring fascinating subjects including consciousness, dark matter, microbiology and the concept of time itself.
In a fitting dash of self awareness, the final scientist, a cognitive psychologist, explains we only remember the end and peak of a film in the most amount of clarity and in a way, The Most Unknown follows this formula with the results likely to differ from person to person. If you’re fascinated by space then the bite of science exploring the possibility of life and geothermal formation of planets will be right up your alley. If you’re more enthused by the concept of time then the latter part of the film will be the right fit for you. While this diversity helps the film to appeal to a wide variety of scientifically enthused people, it does also make it a bit of an acquired taste and some sections will inevitably feel longer and more drawn out.
Seeing these scientists explore different fields within science, completely out of their comfort zone, helps us to empathise with them too which is certainly a nice touch and the hand-held cameras and unpolished interviews and interactions between the various intellects helps give The Most Unknown a much needed feel of authenticity. Those acclimatised to a more sensationalist and exciting style of documentary are sure to be left disappointed as The Most Unknown is much more minimalist and subtle in its approach.
The Most Unknown is certainly experimental in its approach and this is likely to alienate those not completely accustomed to this more subtle and intellectually stimulating format. Some of the editing is a little abrupt and it does take a while to get used to the format depicted here but those looking for something more substantial and educational than the usual flurry of visually slick documentaries should absolutely check this out. Is this an experiment that works? In a way yes but just like science itself, the results are likely to be unpredictable depending on what you’re looking for in a film like this.