Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge review – sex and science in turn-of-the-century Europe
Academic affair … Karolina Gruszka as Marie Curie and Arieh Worthalter as Paul Langevin. Photograph: Swipe Films
Director Marie Noelle’s biopic about Marie Curie, the Polish-born chemist who was the first woman to win the Nobel prize, is something of a tacky treat. Roughly 35% science talk and 65% soap opera, it has adulterous shenanigans and a strong-willed heroine (Polish actor Karolina Gruszka) defying sexism, xenophobia and antisemitism (even though she isn’t Jewish) to make it in a male profession.
The first part unfolds in a non-toxic soft-focus haze, all sun dapples and smiles, as Marie and her beloved hubby Pierre (Charles Berling) bask in acclaim after their crucial research on radiation is recognised by the Nobel committee.
Pierre Mown Down
But when Pierre is tragically mown down by a carriage in the street. Marie must fight albeit in a dignified, ladylike way to maintain her position within academic circles. Even when her affair with colleague Paul Langevin (Arieh Worthalter) becomes public knowledge she must fight. At one point, someone observes that Marie “glows like the radium she studies”, and her flirtation with Piotr Glowacki’s young Albert Einstein is rib-tickling froth. Nevertheless, this is no worse than many other schedule-filling docudramas. Curie deserves the recognition and there’s an honourable attempt to colour in the historical context with references to the Dreyfus affair and the political state of play in turn-of-the-century Europe.