I am compiling films that demonstrate the process of invention or original thinking. Plenty of films show original thinking. Film is an art form, after all. No, I mean an 'aha' moment, or the very process of working out or arguing using original ideas.
I recognize that my examples here are European, historical and historical fiction, from the mid-1600s-early 1800s. I've considered more examples from all sorts of times and places, from Ferris Bueller to Being John Malkovich to Edward Scissorhands to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But I really want to stick to the real PROCESSES of invention and early forms of (in hindsight) successful intellectuall and philosophical evolutions. The quest continues.
In the film Restoration, Robert Downey Jr. plays a physician in 17th Century England. His talent is in embracing and propogating the Age of Enlightenment ideals of empirical evidence and an eschewing of superstition in favor of humanitarian approaches to medical and psychological healing, all without pedantry; indeed, with complete humility.
Innovation in Action:
1) At the beginning of the film he speaks of letting his medicines do their work, and we see a healing that occurs through negligence fueled with a sense that not over-treating might be best.
2) Watch for his speech in a scene toward the end of the second act. He speaks of his vision for allowing a natural healing of psychologically disturbed people, foretelling therapies that move away from what seem like cruelty today.
"I see...I see a time..."
Critic's Note: The book, BTW, is a better work. Being a Hollywood film, it seems that it was necessary to tack a more simplistic and less satisfying ending on the story. Worse, the film's key flaw is the miscasting of Meg Ryan and the script re-write that dumbs down the storyline to accomodate her usually winning style. Mr. Downey Jr. does an amazing job working with her, though; staying in character all the while. Otherwise, if you come to films for the visceral, this one is a feast visually and musically. Note: this film is newly available via streaming on Netflix.
Amadeus What hasn't yet been said about this iconic film that could be relevant? For present purposes I offer that this film shows an example of creative process. Like Robt. Downey Jr.'s physician in Restoration, Wolfgang is a cultural carrier of Age of Enlightenment freshness that moves away from antiquated social power structures and oppressive superstition and toward more humanistic philosophies.
Innovation in Action: Yes, he proposes operas that take place in a Turkish brothel and one based on a play that favors the people's perspective over the royal. Beyond being a proponent of the modern, I point out the scene where he sneaks away from his work on the odious Requiem to spend the night with his performer friends drinking and messing around with his tunes for The Magic Flute. This...this is the creative process. Today we might call this process rapid iterative testing combined with heuristic brainstorming.
I also appreciate the scene showing him writing at a billiard table, flicking a
cue ball around as he scribbles. This is not innovation at work per se, but it does show a mind in flow. Nice.
The Madness of King George takes place about the time of Amadeus. Based on a play that originated in London and starring most of the original cast, it tells the tale of how King George, the monarch during and after the period of American independence (and refers to that conflict), apparently lost his mind to the point where eventually his son became a prince regent.
Surely mental illness had been a known occurrance among nobility and royalty before this incidence considering the centuries of in-breeding. As usual the implications are dire. Here we see the treatments based on earlier notions of human biology that incorporate confusions about what things in the body are, and how they work individually and systemically.
Innovation in Action: In one scene a King's servant, carrying out a piss pot, notices that the urine is not yellow but blue. He is told forthrightly that observations are not scientific and that he should mind his own business. This blue urine observation is considered a key symptom of the genetic disorder it is now believed the King suffered.
Critic's Note: Tom Hanks got the Best Actor Oscar for Forrest Gump over Nigel Hawthorne's King George. The Brits were, and apparently remain, miffed. See the film and consider the injustice.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World takes place during the American War of Indepence in the book but later against Napoleon in the film (surely to make it easier for the American film audience to root for). In fact, when they refer to King and Country here, they're talking about George III and his Prince Regent.
Innovation in Action Aboard the warship HMS Surprise is a ship's surgeon who is a naturalist on the side. A science officer. Mr. Spock to Capt. Aubrey's Capt. Kirk. A French frigate is chased to the west side of South America, taking them to the Galapagos Islands, a career boon for the surgeon. When a student officer describes a survival method of an insect they expect to discover there, the Captain uses the same method to defeat the French ship. The innovation is in cross-disciplinary pollination - insect species strategy to war strategy.
On another note, I love this film for it's demonstration of effective business administration and productivity. It's amazing to consider now what our ancestors accomplished under rough conditions. We should respect human ingenuity, persistence and hard work instead of passing accomplishments off to ancient aliens and whatnot.
Experience researcher in high tech and built environments with an anthropology provenance.