When writing the script for Dimensions, I spent many hours thinking about how we perceive time. The passage of time is something that has always fascinated – and frightened – me, so it seemed natural to explore it in the film. (I do want to say, though, that although Stephen’s concept of time in Dimensions is part to the story, the film is actually focussed on the characters and what they are going through. Sloane was very keen to make a film that was a character-driven story in a sci-fi world, rather then a film that focussed primarily on a sci-fi world.) Dimensions is about jealousy, need, love, desire and the toll these emotions take – albeit with a time travel undercurrent.
Most of us imagine time as a straight line, from the beginning to the end. Imagine then a sheet of lined paper, with the lines running up and down. Now choose one of the lines to be our ‘beginning to end’ line. However, what if, we could move over to the left (or right) to one of the adjacent lines? This parallel line (or universe) might be identical to ours, or different. Perhaps it’s radically different and on that line (universe), Britain is a desert and I am eight feet tall. As it’s the next line over, though, let’s assume it is almost identical to this universe – perhaps only two atoms (or even subatomic particles) have changed places.
In the film, it is Stephen’s belief that every possible parallel universe exists – i.e., every possible event or combination of events takes place somewhere in this huge (infinite) multiverse. For our lined-paper analogy to work we, therefore, would need an infinite number of lines. Now I, for one, am not capable of imagining an infinite length of paper with an infinite number of lines, so I like to make it manageable by making the paper into a tube – with the lines running lengthwise. Almost like a length of lined hosepipe with an infinite circumference.
In the film, a young Stephen is taught by the Professor that it is possible that time does indeed run in directions we can’t physically perceive. Perhaps it is possible to move sideways (i.e., around the circumference of the hosepipe). Imagine if we tilt the length of pipe slightly, and then put a drop of water at the beginning of our original line. Now, if we rotate the pipe as the water slides down it, we have a visual analogy for moving sideways through time while still moving forwards in time. Perhaps every choice we make leads us onto these sideways lines – if I pour my tea over my laptop now, I move to the left. If I don’t I move to the right (or stay in a straight line).
Things get really weird, though, if we take our pipe and join the two ends, so it becomes a ring. In this scenario, the end of time leads us back to the beginning. If we rotate and wiggle the pipe, we can get our drop of water to flow forwards, backwards, sideways, on a diagonal – an ever changing path. These are just the beginnings of the visual games I used when thinking about Stephen’s concepts of time. Of course there are a lot of ‘ifs’ involved and I certainly don’t claim to have any answers (or be any sort of expert). The hosepipe is one of several shapes I have thought about – but I shan’t bore you with others (globe, mobius strip, etc.).
One of the things that becomes apparent, if you view time as more than a straight line, is the paradoxes disappear. For example, the old ‘if I go back in time and kill my grandfather, how will I ever be born’-type question. Yes, you can’t simply go back on the line you are on as you didn’t kill him originally in that timeline (universe). However, what if you go backwards on a diagonal – i.e. to a line (universe) where you did kill him? He is, therefore, still alive and dead – depending on that line you look at. Starts to hurt when you think about it, doesn’t it?
They are just things I enjoy thinking about and trying to understand. Do you need to understand this, or even care about it to enjoy the film? No. However, if you are interested in this sort of concept, you might want to check out Hugh Everett and his metaverse / multiverse theories.
“I can assure you, I’m not mad. But then again I would say that, wouldn’t I.” Stephen, circa 1936