Tesla (2020) - full transcript

A freewheeling take on visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, his interactions with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan's daughter Anne, and his breakthroughs in transmitting electrical power and light.

He had a black cat
named Machek when he was a boy.

The cat followed him everywhere.

And one day, when he
stroked the cat's back,

he saw a miracle.

A sheet of light
crackling under his hand.

"Lightning in the sky,"

his father explained,

"is the same thing
as the spark shooting

"from Machek's back."

And Tesla asked himself,

"Is nature a gigantic cat?

"And if so,

"who strokes its back?"

Mind over matter,

that's what it's
all about, isn't it?

Eventually, we'll be
able to see in the dark.

I found them.

I think there are more
in the crazy drawer.

Do you know where that is?

The crazy drawer?

That means is you
don't have crazy drawers

where you're from?

My mother had a crazy drawer.

And yours?

Leave my mother out of this.

No one expected you
to come in tonight, Tom.

Ha, no?


Well I expected it.

When I was five years old...

Ed, you don't have to
stop because I'm talking.

I was five years old and
we sailed across Lake Erie

to visit the Edison
clan there in Vienna.

Vienna, Ontario.

Mother and father, sisters,
Marriane and Tanney,

my brother, Charlie,
and my Grandpa Sam.

I learned to swim.

When I got back to Ohio,

I went exploring with
my good friend, George.

George Lockwood.

He was exactly my age.

We went out to the
canal below my house

and I went into the water
and George followed me

and afterward, I went
home feeling very subdued

and crawled into bed.

When my mother woke
me, it was very dark

and she asked about George.

Everybody was looking
for him, half the town.

Had lit lanterns, called
his name looking everywhere.

I told her I saw George's
head disappear in the water

and I waited for him a long time

and I didn't know what to do.

I was five years old.

What made me think
of that just now.

Go home, Tom.


I aways assumed
people can swim.

Oh, Tesla, didn't
see you there before.

It is true you're
from Transylvania?


Have you ever
eaten human flesh?

Are you married?


Why do you ask?

We like to give
the new men a hard time.

I can swim.

What's that?

What you said before,

I can swim.

Can you?

Well good.

We'll see.

Pity the
poor immigrant,

as the song goes.

Tesla came to America
with an open heart

filled with
expectation and hope.

I told you about my brother.

It was this time of year.

I was seven,

he was 12.

He didn't die instantly
when he was thrown

from the horse.

My mother woke me,

brought me to the body,

told me to kiss him on the lips.

His very cold lips.

He was the brilliant one.

I could never measure up.

Dear Szigeti,

I'm finding my way at
Edison's Machine Works,

where there's always too much
to do and not enough time,

never enough money or men,

constant fixes,
upgrades, emergencies.

Edison hardly sleeps and
expects everyone around him

to sleep even less.

He talks to everyone, but
is incapable of listening.

He has no interest in my motor.

You know the proverb, nothing
grows in the shadow of an Oak.

I had hoped that
Edison and I would,

I don't know, work together,

that he would understand.


That we could be friends.

Edison doesn't have
time to comb his hair.

It's more than that.

There was a death in the family.

Nobody talks about it.

His wife,

his wife died.

When was this?


Alternating current
is a waste of time.

Impractical and deadly.

There's no future in it.


You think I owe you
$50,000 honestly?


you don't understand the
American sense of humor.

This is pretty surely
not how it happened

but what can I tell you?

If you Google Nikola Tesla
you get 34 million results,

but for images there
are mostly just

three our four photographs
repeated over and over.

They get flipped around.

Some are colorized or
photoshopped with lightning

in the background but it's
basically just four pictures.

Beyond that, things get
murky and more imaginative.

He was born in 1856,
far from the Gilded Age

in Likas Milian, a
small rural village

in what's now Croatia.

His father is an
Orthodox Serbian priest,

but he's closer with his
mother, a brilliant woman

who couldn't read or write.

He's a precocious boy, a
bit withdrawn, secretive

with a gift for languages
and mathematics.

Defying his father, he
studies engineering in Prague,

but never graduates.

In Budapest, coming
out of a depression,

walking in a park with a
friend, he sees in a flash,

in a vision the
motor that will be

his first revolutionary

Alternating current
is a waste of time.

Impractical and deadly.

There's no future in it.


You think I owe you $50,000?

Tesla, you have no understanding

of the American sense of humor.

A man who says he
doesn't care about money

can find himself tormented
by the lack of it.

Whereas Edison,
Edison values money

but spends it faster
than he makes it.

But he's always making it

in great quantities.

Google Thomas Edison and you
get over 64 million results.

Twice as many as Tesla.

Edison's one of the most
famous, most successful men

of his time.

But some facts
slip out of sight.

Tesla went to work for
Edison the same year,

the same summer that
Mary Edison died.

Congestion of the brain
was the official report,

code for a Morphine overdose.

She was 15 when
they met in the rain

outside Edison's new workshop,

16 when they married,
25 when she died,

leaving Edison with
three young children

and a lot on his mind.

This, you might think, is
where Tesla's luck turns.

He finds investors and sets
up the Tesla Lighting Company,

but his partners swindle
him, leaving him penniless.

He falls into the
abyss of poverty,

becomes a ditch digger
digging trenches for cables,

phone lines for Western Union.

After a humiliating year,
a sympathetic foreman

introduces him to Alfred S.
Brown and Charles F. Peck.

They key is the motor
rotates by virtue of induction

of rotating magnetic fields.

I've eliminated the
commutator which distributes

electricity to the rotor.

So you've eliminated the
need for the commutator

and brushes the sparks.


There are no sparks.

Is that so bad?

They're just unnecessary.

The magnetic field
redirects the current.

May I?

The work you did for
Edison, what was it?

I redesigned 24
different dynamos,

standard machines,

replaced longer magnets
with short coils,

replaced older models.

I couldn't interest him
in alternating current,

but of course you know...

I know, I'm an electrician.

But he...

The lawyer, the sensible one.

He understands...

This is more
than just a motor.

It is entire system

for generating, transmitting,
and utilizing power.

You were making $15 a
week with Edison, correct?

We checked.

hires the best,

but he practically makes
them pay for the privilege.

We have capital.

$50,000 for an
Annual sinking fund

and alternating current...

I don't
care if it's dangerous.

It isn't.

Edison says...

Fire is dangerous
if you stick your hand in it.

We'll set
you up with a lab

and a salary.

$250 a month.

It's better than you
were expecting, is it?

I understand your mother is
not very impressed with me.

Edison met his second
wife, Mina Miller, in 1885.

My mother regards our earthly
existence as insignificant.

Her father
had made a fortune

by inventing a
popular lawnmower,

the Buckeye Reaper.

The youngest of seven
children, she was engaged

to marry a preacher's son.

She says when you
leave this life,

you enter into a brighter
and happier life,

one that never ends.

You know what my
mother said to me?

Never eat anything
bigger than your head.

I am going to ask your father

if I can

teach you morse code.

So we can talk without talking.

Instead of a single coil,

we use four.

Four coils around
a laminated ring.

Two separate AC currents
feed into the paired coils

on opposite sides.

The currents are out of phase.

This creates the rotating
electrical field.

No sparks.

I was with him in Budapest

when he had the idea.

He saw it in his head and then

he draw it in the dirt.

I did.

That was five years ago.

And here we are now.

New Orleans, St. Paul,
Chicago, Philadelphia, Brooklyn.

Edison has 121 power
stations in the U.S.

Plus Berlin and Milan, Paris,
Bordeaux, Amsterdam, Munich.


When we get this across, it's
going to rewrite the book.

It's going to
knock him sideways.

What is this can?

It's a prototype.

You expect me to invest
in a spinning tin can

of shoe polish?

I do.

That motor

will do the work of the world.

It'll set men free.

It's perfect.

I congratulate you.

Its efficiency without
question is equal

to the best direct
current motor.

In terms of voltage potentials,
it can have no match.

The best machine
is the one with

the fewest parts.

It's the solution
everyone's been searching for.

Where have you been hiding?

What do you mean?

You're not a
member of the AIEE.

Institute of...

Or the National
Electric Light Association

or the Electric
Club of New York.

Your endorsement means
a great deal to us.

To all
of us, Professor.

Mr. Tesla has been
keeping a low profile.

That will change.

I can tell ya,

the patent office will not
accept the application.

What do you mean?

You think you can
jam all you've done

into a single omnibus patent?

You'll have to break it up

into half a dozen
separate inventions.

Well that's how I see it.

We're at a turning point in
the history of human engin...

Sorry I'm late.

Ah, Evelyn.

This is

Mr. Tesla,

Mr. Peck, and Mr. Brown, his
business partners and Mr...

Antoni Szigeti.

Tesla's assistant.

niece Evelyn and?


Excuse me, I'm a
creature of habit.

Sit down.

Look at Mr. Tesla's motor.

It's gonna make him very famous.

Well in that case, we
can split my sandwich.

Do you like snow?

Looks like we're gonna
get a lot more of it.

Go ahead, show 'em.

He's eliminated the
commutator and the sparks

to go with it.

My uncle likes machines
more than people.

Do I?


Machines is an
extension of people,

not as the opposite of people.

Nothing touches.

That's right.

No sparks.

The new machines
have something extra.

When my cousin died,
I started to feel

she was with me when
I turned on the light.

Electric light.

It was as though there was
something in the current

and the light in the air that

allowed her to linger.

I now have the pleasure
of introducing you

to a novel system of
electrical transformation

and distribution of energy

by means of alternate currents.

My notice was rather brief,

so I would be very much
gratified if the little work

I've done meets
with your approval.

The importance of
maintaining the intensity

of the all constant

is that if this can be
produced, we can utilize

instead of the
sub-divider armature

an ordinary still pock.

Get me out of here.


George Westinghouse.

He wants the motor, of course.

We are telling him that
another party is involved,

a San Francisco capitalist
offering $200,000.

Plus $2.50 per
house power, royalty

for each motor reinstalled.

That is strategy.

Employ it.

You can go along
with this, can't you?

There's nobody else, really.

Westinghouse is the only
one who has the cash.

The cash and the guts.

George Westinghouse was 16

when he enlisted
in the Civil War.

Served in the Navy
on the northern side

and was promoted to Corporal.

When he was 21, he invented
the air break for trains

and made a fortune because
all the railroads needed it.

He was an inventor
and businessman,

a rare mix.

Doesn't mind buying
other people's patents,

working them in
to bigger schemes.

He hates self-promotion.

Google him and you get
just five million results.

He met his wife,
Marguerite, on a train.

Westinghouse buy Tesla's patents

for over a million
dollars in today's money

and enlists Tesla to
come to his home base

to oversee production.

Royalties for every
motor sold assure Tesla

more millions, an accumulating
fortune in years to come.


You know this man, Brown?

Works for Edison?

Harold P. Brown?

I know an Alfred S.
Brown, an associate.

Sure, Brown's a pretty
common American name.

Brown and Green,
two color names.

I knew an Orange once, James.

But he pronounced it Oranje.

Anyway, Harold P. Brown has
bought some of our machines

on the sly and has Westinghouse,
that's what he calls it,

24 dogs purchased from children

for 25 cents each.

What I'm does, and
I'm sure you've heard,

in the name of science
is he zaps the dog

with 14 hundred volts
of direct current.

Without fatal results and
then kills the same dog

with 400 to 800 of
Westinghouse current.

Sorry about the noise.

And the heat.

Pittsburgh has its charms but

they can seem...

Brown's challenged me

to a duel.

He wants me to bring a
machine and go to New York

and expose myself
to electric shocks,

alternating current, of course

while he receives
direct current.

We shall commence with 100 volts

and then increase by 50
volts until one or the other

publicly admits his error.

I'll do it.

Well that's very kind
of you, but even if I

or you submitted to such
an imbecilic adventure,

they're still gearing
up to execute Kemmler.


The ax murderer.

Now, to be fair,

he used a hatchet.

I had to do it.

I wanted to kill her
and the sooner I hang,

the better it'll be.

Instead of hanging,
there's a move to electrocute

and our friend, Edison,
is going to testify

suggesting they put
an end to Kemmler

using a Westinghouse machine.

He's running scared.



You want a lemonade?

No, thank you.

AC versus DC.

People think it's a
difference of opinion

but we know better.

You know I reached
out to Edison.

Invited him here,
suggested a merger.

He's too busy, he wrote back.

"Working in my lab
consumes all my time."

It's war.

Your name?

Thomas Alva Edison.

And what
is your calling or profession?


Have you devoted
a great deal of time

to the subject of electricity?

Yes, of course.

All right.

And how long have you
engaged in your work

as inventor or electrician?

26 years.

Now, can you tell us...

can you state

the necessary strength of
current needed in order

to produce death in all cases?

Well I'm opposed to
capital punishment.

question did not arise

do we as individuals believe
in capital punishment.

The practice has been
in existence by law

in all ages in all nations

and probably will for
all of time to come.

Now, Mr. Edison, explain
the difference between

continuous or direct current

and alternating current.

Direct current flows
like water through a pipe.

Alternating current is the
same as if a body of water

were allowed to flow through
a pipe in one direction

for a given amount of
time and then reversed

for a given amount of time.

Direct current is like a
river flowing peacefully

to the sea.

Alternating current
is like a current

rushing violently
over a precipice.

Now have you measured

the electrical resistance
of human beings?

Yes, I have.

Can an artificial
current be generated

and applied in such a
manner as to produce death

in human beings in every case?





Thank you.

Mr. Cochran.

I'm concerned, Mr.
Edison, that different men

in your experiments demonstrate
at different resistance.

What would the effect be...

Excuse me, I'm sorry.

I can't hear you,
you'll have to speak up.

I'm worried that the current
will have unforeseen effect.

Now what would the
effect be on Kemmler

if we were to apply the current
for five or six minutes?

Now, wait a minute.

What your saying...

If we
applied the current

for five or six minutes,
what will happen to Kemmler,

will he not be carbonized?

No, he'd be mummified.

All the moisture in his
body would evaporate.

But that's the hardly point.

Mr. Edison...

Just 1,000 volts
of one amp current

is 10 times as much as
you need to kill any man

with the Westinghouse

Westinghouse uses
2,000 more volts.

Suppose a man touches a
wire in a wet place, well

that's a dead man.

This is your belief.

What's that?

This is
your belief, correct?

This is not based on knowledge?

Oh, correct.

I never killed anybody.

Your friends from school?

Colleagues in Budapest
eight years ago.

Friends, yes.

And then Paris.

He's an inventor as well.

But I seem to have a gift
for helping other inventors.

You remind me of my cat.

If I were to interview my cat,

I feel I'd have to
prepare in advance

to ask him really
interesting questions.

Where are you from?

He's from a small village

in the Austrian Empire.

Humble beginnings.

Like Abraham Lincoln.

He has many fond memory.


I remember

when I was 17, summertime,

I lived in the country.

There was a Cholera epidemic.

They burned trees in the streets
to ward away evil spirits

and drank infected
water, died like dogs.

I just realized
Mr. Tesla and Mr.?



Just realized how late it
is and somebody's father

expects her home on the hour.

He doesn't care.

You know who my
father is of course?


Do you consider my father a
malignant force in the world?

A person who amasses a
fortune like a pirate

or a gangster?

Who acquires power by exploiting
workers, and resources,

and rigging markets, and
manipulating economies,

and so forth?

Or is he a
captain of industry?

Are his actions positive?

Does he in fact expand
markets, and provide more jobs,

and give vast sums of money
to those less fortunate?

This young lady's in my care
and I must get her home.

Til soon,

Mr. Tesla.

Yes, we may see
you again soon.

Or sooner.

You never can tell.

Anne Morgan,

daughter of J. Pierpont Morgan.

My father preferred
to be called Pierpont.

Pierpont Morgan.

At that time and
for decades to come,

one of the wealthiest
men in the world.

He was born rich,

entered the family
banking business early on.

In 1861 when he was 24,

he married his first
wife, Amelia Sturges.

He took her to Europe
after they were married,

she was diagnosed with
Tuberculosis and died

four months later.

He was shattered.

He buried himself in
work, banking, finance,

buying and trading
companies and corporations.

I don't think he ever asked
who strokes the cat's back.

He married Frances Louisa
Tracy and had four children.

I'm the youngest.

He hired Thomas Edison
to install electricity

in our Madison Avenue mansion,

the first private
residence in New York

illuminated by Edison's light.

While Tesla was
refining his designs

for the perfect induction motor,

my father was pouring millions

into the Edison General
Electric Company.


A woman like that,

she can make all

your dreams

come true.

Well my dreams are true.


But you lack funding.

I will

delight in working of the

nerve to show.

It's a compass

for steering ships at sea.

It's good.

Yes, it's very good.


Sir William Thompson's
done it already.

Lord Calvin.

if you want, I can
show you the journal.


I should have showed you sooner.


Ah yes, well good luck with

Anne Morgan.


this is William Kemmler.

I wish you all good luck.

I believe I am going
to a good place and

I am ready to go.

And there's no rush.

Let's get this right.

I don't wanna take any
chances on this thing.

You know?

Anne is very upset.

She says you live in your head.

Doesn't everyone?

Too much in your head, I
think she feels left out.

Sometimes it seems as
though all I do is think.

For days or weeks on end.

Have you seen this?

Late edition?

They made a thorough
botch of it.


Like my brain's burning.

Who could live with that?

When I thought to
sleep out all my faults,

I found that some had stuffed
the bed with thoughts.

I would say thorns.

With a click
of the lever, Kemmler's body

straightened and seemed as
though it might be thrown across

the chamber, were it not for
the straps which held it.

What is that?


The body was as rigid
as though cast and bronze,

save for the index
finger of the right hand,

which closed up so tightly
that the nail penetrated

the flesh on the first
joint and blood trickled out

on the arm of the chair.

There were two or three
doctors with stopwatches,

they saw Kemmler
still breathing.

He wasn't dead.

They got the machine
started up again,

gave him another thousand volts.

Well that did it.

What was Kemmler
convicted for?

Killed his wife.

Was Edison there?

He's in Paris.

Seven of his company
as they're merging

with international outlets,
backed by Deutsche Bank.

And Drexel Morgan Company.


Blame the doctors.

They applied the current
to the top of his head.

Hair is not conductive.

They should put his
hand in a jar of water.

They'll get it right next time.

You're indulging me

because of my father.


I came to wonder,

could any woman ever reach

or touch Tesla?

The way his mother had?

He had a vision just
before she died.

Easter Sunday at one a.m., 1892.

After her funeral, he fell ill

and spent three weeks living
like a shadow in the village

where she was born.

Then he rebounded, gave
a lecture in Belgrade

and came home.


You think of people as
machines, but you're wrong.

- They aren't.
- I said

the universe is a machine.


We have an outside
and an inside.

We have wills and souls.

I'm fine.

It's just sometimes
I have a rather

unfavorable reaction to pearls.

Leave us alone.

My father...

You should meet my father.

He's good with numbers
and objects, like you.

I would like to meet him.

If he isn't too
busy helping Edison.

Watch out for his nose.

His what?

His nose.

You've heard about it, I assume?

The richest man in
the world and he has

a hideous skin disease.

Inflaming and
disfiguring his nose.

He dares you to pretend
you don't see it.

Maybe it will happen to me,

it's just a matter of time.

Maybe I'd be better
off without a nose,

like the sphinx.

When are you going to Chicago?

How did you know about that?

Westinghouse is installing
hundreds of dynamos.

250,000 light bulbs.

I leave tomorrow.

With your friend?

The Hungarian?



He lost his compass.

He went to South America
to seek his fortune.

But wasn't he your

best friend?

I can visit you in Chicago.

That's not necessary.

Thank you, no.

You need me.

Thinking, my father taught me,

is more interesting than knowing

but less interesting
than lucking.

That's one way to size
up the pavilion of light

at the World's Fair
in Chicago 1893,

where the new Tesla Westinghouse
machines provide power

and illumination.

The fair consumes three
times more electricity

than the whole city itself.

28 million visitors
from around the world

and they all see what
Edison has tried to deny,

alternating current
is beautiful and safe.


Thank you for joining me.


I took the liberty,

ordered for us both.

An American meal.


So you've been to my exhibition,

the tower, the Edison column.

18,000 bulbs literally

surrounded by 25 hundred
different types of Edison lamps.

Go ahead, it's fresh.

Well, I'm an American now.

Full-fledged citizen.

Yes, yes, of course you are.

Of course.

As I was saying, it's
really on display.

Edison dynamos, flat irons,
sewing machine motors,

dinging room fans, elevators.

I like the dolls.

The dolls?

They're very amusing.

Hmm, the talking dolls.

We rushed it, it's not perfect.

Kinetscope, moving pictures.

Everybody will like that.

But I invited you, here you are.

Tesla, it's plain as day.

This entire World's
Fair is lit and powered

by alternating current.

machines, your design.

I was wrong about
alternating current.

I was wrong about you.

I still have capital,
I still have investors.

An unmatched capacity for PR.

Let's reset the clocks.

Bygones be bygones.

You must have all
sorts of ideas.

Pick a project,

something incredible, huh?

We can do incredible
things together, huh?

What do you wanna do next?

Got a light?

Do you have a light?

This meeting
never happened.

Edison and Tesla didn't
talk at the World Fair.

Edison never
admitted he was wrong

about alternating current.

There was no apology,
no reconciliation.

And you can't hep but wonder,

if only Tesla had someone
sharp and smart at his side,

an enlightened hustler
to steer him through

the crass, commercial world.

If only.

Dr. Tesla.

He's waiting for you.


I know you don't like to

shake hands, I've taken note.

Excuse me, watch your toes.

I was assured this
was an out of the way

meeting place but it's...

I was misinformed.




Edison sunk.

He's on the ropes.

We beat him.

It was never about Edison.

He was simply on the
wrong side of the street.

My legal bills would suggest

it's a bit more ugly than that.


here's the thing,

Westinghouse Electric is
fighting for its life.

The economy and
the Edison merger.

I'm sure you understand this.

Even with the Niagara Commission

on our side,

JP Morgan is pulling
all the strings.

We don't stand a chance
unless we initiate

a similar merger on our side.

My new Board of Directors


if I pay you the royalties
spelled out in your contract,

we're bust.

It's too much money.

The whole company's in jeopardy.

They refuse

to go forward with the merger

unless your contract, the
horsepower clause, is canceled.

Would you mind if we went
somewhere a little less dusty?

You mean that if I give this up

and the merger goes
through, you'll retain

control of your company

and the polyphase
system finally?

Yes, right.


The whole country is put on AC,

on your machines.

Our machines.

Your polyphase system.

You know how I feel about this.

And if I refuse?

You'll have to deal
with the bankers.

I wouldn't blame
you, but in that case

I'd be clear out of the picture.

A sensible
man would have said,

"Wait a minute, let
me talk to my lawyer."

But Tesla...

Tear it up.

Tear it up.

I'd prefer if you tore it up.

You won't regret it.

We are going to Niagara.

There's no stopping it.

All right.

It's gonna be
okay, don't worry.

There's more than one
way to skin a cat.

Yes, I've heard that.

Do you think it's true?

Of course.

Take it from an old cat skinner.

Sarah Bernhardt,
the divine Sarah.

The first internationally
famous celebrity superstar.

Legend has it, she once
dropped her handkerchief

at Tesla's feet.

Or was it her scarf?

She's in motion all her
life, traveling the globe.

She makes her first appearance
on the American stage

in New York in 1881.

At two in the morning
on her way to Boston,

she stops off in
Menlo Park, New Jersey

to visit the wizard,
Thomas Alva Edison.

Listen to me carefully.

Every moment now
is precious to me.

I was the monster
in this riddle.

I was insane with
incestuous passion.

Now I am drunk on an
infallible poison.

I can feel my pulses pushing
it icily into my feet,

hands, and the roots of my hair.

10 years later, she's back

for the Chicago World's
Fair and another grand tour.

She travels in a
coffin, you know?

Which she sleeps in.

She sleeps

in a coffin.

To prepare for the
reality of death.

I'd like a coffin.

Her motto is quand meme,

which translated
means all the same

or despite everything, even so.

No matter what?

Do you speak French?

I can speak a few words...

...even form some sentences.

I would like to see you again.

Will you come with me?

Quand meme.

Pleased to meet you. Pleased to meet you.

Robert Underwood Johnson,
the Century Magazine.

I and my wife...


We have been wanting
to see you in the flesh

for a very long time.

A very long time. It's so delightful.


May I introduce?

Do you know the
brilliant, Nikola Tesla?

I believe this looks like a sheet of paper burning in flames.

Are you an actor?

He looks like an actor.

He's the greatest inventor of all time.

The greatest
inventor of the age.

He is shy.

But you insist in looking
me directly in the eye?

Yes, he does that.

Ah, the divine Miss Sarah,

you couldn't have been diviner.

Of course you already know each other.

Hello, Robert.

Catherine, I don't believe
you know my wife, Mina.

When you died I had
to hold my breath.

It was terrifying.

Exactly how I felt.

my wife, Catherine.

You know, I had Mr.
Tesla at my workshop

nine years ago.

He lasted, what?

Six months.

Six months, he quit.

I didn't.

He thinks I owe him money.

What was it?


I know, I shouldn't
talk about money.

I shouldn't needn't
really joke about money.

Especially with someone
who has no sense of humor.


It's all right, we're friends.

And now he makes
lots of money.

And his machines
outsell my machines.

Oh, yes.

Salt water taffy for
you from Florida.

Because you have
everything else already.

Where is your coffin?

You can't look at me like
this without consequences.

That's from a play.

We will see each other again.

No hard feelings.

did you say to her?

I didn't quite...

I asked about her coffin.

I guess she keeps
it in her hotel.

For the Niagara
hydroelectric power plant,

Tesla designs
completely new machines,

unprecedented generators,
fives times bigger

than anything ever built.

Plus transformers, motors,
transmission lines, turbines.

Revolutionary in
their power and range.

He didn't invent
alternating current.

Nobody did.

But his system makes it
practical and possible to use

everywhere efficiently
throughout the world.

His system had to be broken down

into 40 fundamental patents.

Most valuable patent since the
invention of the telephone.

We'll see about that.

In St. Louis last
week, over 4,000 people

attended his lecture.

Yale gave him an honorary
degree, then Columbia.

You've seen the articles
in the magazine.

And now, already he
has eight new patents

for wireless energy.

Electromagnetic pulses
using high frequency waves.

You know him.

You've talked to him.

Is he looking for an investor

or a wife?

Chastity is a path
to enlightenment.

A great inventor
should never marry.

You realize this?

We are what our
thoughts have made us.

I believe that.

So take care about
what you think.

Thoughts live,

they travel far.

My aim is to develop
an entirely new

system of communication.

Yes, you've said...

Using new principles.

Electric symbols, voices even,

photographs transmitted
through the air.

Well you could load
your wireless boat

with a cargo of
dynamite, submerge it,

make it swim along and
then explode the dynamite...

- I could, but...
- it'll blow up, say,

- a battleship?
- But I was thinking

much bigger than that.

Oh, it has many applications.

Yes, it will transform
the way the world works.

An entire system.

I know.

It's a paradox, yet true,

that the more we learn,
the more ignorant we become

in the absolute sense.

It's through enlightenment
that we are made aware

of our limitations.

That's why I'm
going to Colorado.

That's far.


The air, altitude,
lightning storms.

My brain is only a receiver.

In the universe, there
is a core from which

we receive all
information, inspiration,

knowledge, and strength.

I know it's not simple

to be able to love calmly.

To trust without fear.

To commit yourself to
really difficult tasks

with unlimited energy.

Is it better to be
vindicated or to be loved?

Idealism cannot work hand
in hand with capitalism.


or false?

Are dreams and intelligence
enough to save the world?

Is your

heightened ability,

your brilliance

a blessing or a curse?

You have become much
better at asking questions.

In Colorado, Tesla
disappears into his work.

Conducting experiments that
have never been duplicated

or fully understood.

He was synchronizing electricity
in the sky and the earth

with currents surging through
his magnifying transmitter.

A.K.A., a Tesla coil.

It was like getting the
ocean to sit for a portrait.

Miss Morgan

from the Alta Vista Hotel.

Mr. Lowenstein, my
associate from New York

has been troubled by
altitude sickness,

but I am invigorated
by the climate.

Skies of dazzling calm
alternating with storms

of great violence.

We have not seen Colorado's
legendary fireballs, but

I intend to generate
them myself.

The essential aspects of my
work here must remain veiled,

as they say, in secrecy.

When my results are revealed,
humanity will be like

an ant heap stirred
up with a stick.

I've enlisted the aid
of a bright, local boy

who humbly assures us he doesn't
know what electricity is.

I tell him with
great seriousness,

"No one knows what it is."

Every human being is an engine
geared to the wheel work

of the universe.

You did that.

The whole God damn
generator is on fire.

You threw a short on the line!

I set the earth an
electrical resonance.

You blacked out the
whole God damn town,

you son of a bitch.

You knocked out the generator.

I sent electrons
streaming into the earth

at a rate of 150
oscillations per second,

each pulsation a
wavelength of 6,600 feet

and it expands, overflowing
the curve of the earth

creating a stationary
wave that arises and falls

on the other side of the planet.

I will pay for a new generator.


My expense.

She's in the dining room.


You are the sole topic
of conversation here.

Well, other than me.

You work at night

in a secret laboratory.

No windows.

You shoot lightnings
from the earth

to the sky.

And my only fear is
the very real possibility

that I may set the sky on fire.

It's as if I'm trying
to tame a wild cat

and I have become nothing but
a mass of bloody scratches.

Oh, you like being scratched?

If necessary.

She was in Colorado

for her second
worldwide farewell tour.

Or was it her third?

He was drawn to her, I guess,
for her fame and glamor

and for her unattainability.

Colorado's a bit
like a hospital ward.

Have you noticed?

It's filled with rich
people with tuberculosis

pumping their lungs with
the pure mountain air.

They love the theater but

they cough a lot.


I've been dying a lot lately.

Never the same death twice.

That's my specialty.

I've died so much
I feel immortal.

Well your English
is improving.

Well, maybe.

But when I am on stage,
I perform only in French.

Some Americans pay to see
the great French actress.

There was a time when I hated death.

I regret that now.

Death is necessary...

...and I love it.

Because it waits for you before it strikes.

I can get you tickets to
Camille tomorrow night.

Well, tonight.

If the lights come back on.

I'll make
sure they come back on

before the curtain comes up.


you had to cut your head off

and give it to someone else,

what difference would it make?

This is what love is like.

"Energy creates energy,"

Sarah Bernhardt said.

"It is by spending myself
that I become rich."

So it's like
rivulets in a lake.

Where you throw a stone
and these lamps...

Please tell me again, Mr. Tesla,

the distance between your
machines and these lamps.

26 miles.

It would be simple

to take a common 300
horsepower oscillator

to run simultaneously
operations just like this one

at any point on the globe.

One need only place the receiving
apparatus into the ground.

Doesn't matter if the
transmission is affected

at a few miles

or a few thousand miles.

The waves travel
in all directions,

passing over the earth's
bulge in ever smaller circles

in increasing intensity
until they converge

on the planet's opposite side.

So transmitting messages to a

receiving terminal,
if I understand you,

you can signal
steam ships at sea,

obtain instantaneous stock
quotes from the stock exchange,

New York Stock Exchange

if you set up a tower
on the east coast

and another one on the
other side of the Atlantic?


How much you estimate you
need to make this a reality?

Let's be honest, I don't have
a very good impression of you.

You talk, you're boastful.

And apart from the
deal with Westinghouse,

you've yet to make much
money off of your boasts.

But contrary to popular
belief, I never did a thing

except buying and selling
securities of foreign exchange

simply to make money
from the doing of it.


That be sufficient?


I think you're wrong.

I understand what you're up
to here and you can do more.

We'll draw up a
contract, of course.

You and I have much in common.

I believe in higher reality,

I believe in recklessness
of great men.

Following the
battle of the currents,

Thomas Edison abandons
his idea of electricity.

He's done with it, he says,

and throws himself
at his new method

of extracting low grade
iron ore from crushed rocks.

He buys land in
Ogdensburg, New Jersey

and sets up a vast operation,
employing over 400 men.

By 1899, while Tesla's
in Colorado Springs,

the Edison mining concern is
declared a complete failure,

wiping our four million dollars

of Edison's personal fortune.

Yeah, it's all gone.

But we had a hell of a
good time spending it.

As his mother would
say, he tried to eat something

bigger than his head.

Miss Morgan, I believe
I've been remiss.

What does that mean?


That's one of those

words I never
really know what...

Yes, Marconi sends his
signal through the air

using 17 of my patents.

When our tower is complete,
we will send our message

across the earth
through the earth.

He sent it across the Channel

and no one's done that before.

You haven't done that.

Using 17 of my patents.

Hello, Anne.

I've just made tea.

I understand your father
left for Cairo last week.

His aides say he can't be
reached for another two weeks.

When this tower is complete,

he will be able to be
reached in an instant.

I'm not here to talk
for him or about him.

Except to tell you

that he knows you're in debt.

course he's in debt.

He's revolutionizing at
least three fields of...

Deep debt.

And when you send out
distress signals...

Do you understand
the scale of what he's...

It can only
alarm any other investors,

if any are left to be alarmed.

And all my father
asked for was a way

to send stock reports
across the Atlantic.

We don't have any
other investors.

Why would you?

My father has a 51%
share of your patents.

I'm wondering why
you're giving interviews

about getting
messages from Mars.

I had three


distinct vibrations,
even, not random.

I do believe it
pretends a message.

Why would you go
on record with this?

I said it pretends...

From Mars?

My father reads these things.

You believe in martians?

The chance of alien
life is actually...

Alien life

is a statistical certainty.

What if you're picking
up Marconi's signals?

His test signals from
across the English Channel.

Not Mars, but Marconi?

I believe that I may be

the first person

who has ever heard the sound
of one planet greeting another.

What happens if
your system succeeds?

Who controls the
distribution of power?

Nobody controls it.

Like air, right?

You can't break it
into saleable units

available to everyone.

That's right.

Doesn't it occur to you
that the way the world runs

is determined by the
manipulation of all this?

Power, energy.

And what you wanna do is...

What do you want to do?

When this system is complete,

we will be able
to go to a swamp,

or a desert, some place
broken, and plighted.

Places small, sea for a few,

simple machines and
have light, heat,

mode of power, a complete
system of communication

for a people
previously living under

the most wretched
of circumstances.


we will be able
to do it cheaply.

You are not an economist.

Everything has to be paid for.

Especially money.

The 150,000 my
father gives Tesla

in December, 1901,

equivalent of four
million in today's money,

is the same amount he paid
for this painting in April.

Though this

is my favorite painting
he bought at this time.


another 100,000.

During the same period,
working day and night,

Pierpont organizes the
creation of U.S. Steel,

the first company valued
at a billion dollars.

Since a
year, Mr. Morgan,

there has been hardly a night

when my pillow has not
been bathed in tears,

but you must not think
me a weak man for that.

When while this is applied,
the earth will be converted

into a huge brain,
capable of response

in every one of it parts.

Its principles I have discovered

will cause a revolution so great

that almost all values
and all human relations

will be profoundly modified.

My patents confer a monopoly.

Ah, Mr. Tesla.

I understand your ship has
run up against the rocks.

Great pity.

Mr. Morgan.

There isn't a single person
that's come to visit me

in the last 30 years
who's come for any purpose

other than to grovel on
the carpet for money.

I've sent you detailed
telegraphs, facts.

I'm not a vagabond come to beg.

Last year I provided
you with $100,000.

Months later, you requested
additional aid, $50,000 more.

Do you think I'm
a bottomless pit?

When my work is finished,
you'll recoup your investment

tenfold, a hundredfold.

I'm not convinced you
will finish your work.

Anyway, I'm in no need of money.


I'm working on a new method

to photograph thought,

transcribing electric
impulses from the brain.

The Ottawa Indians
considered the Milky Way

to be muddy water
stirred by a turtle

swimming along the
bottom of the sky.

What do you think of that?

There is nothing durable but
the eternal state of things.

Do not let yourself
be intimidated

by the horror of the world.

Everything's ordered and
correct and must fulfill

its destiny in order
to retain perfection.

Soon I will be able to release

a new series of inventions

that will make
warfare unthinkable.

The central idea is a being

of some microscopic particles
traveling at a speed

close to that of
the speed of light.

It will stop an
army in its tracks

at 250 miles, swipe a
squadron of airplanes

at an even greater distance.

Beam travels in a straight
line trajectory and therefore

has range limitations by
the curvature of the earth

and all the essential details
aren't finished in my mind.

♪ Welcome to your life ♪

♪ There's no turning back ♪

♪ Even while we sleep ♪

♪ We will find you acting
on your best behavior ♪

♪ Turn your back
on mother nature ♪

♪ Everybody wants
to rule the world ♪

♪ It's my own design ♪

♪ It's my own remorse ♪

♪ Help me to decide ♪

♪ Help me make the
most of freedom ♪

♪ And of pleasure ♪

♪ Nothing ever lasts forever ♪

♪ Everybody wants
to rule the world ♪

♪ So glad we almost made it ♪

♪ So sad they had to fade it ♪

♪ Everybody wants
to rule the world ♪

♪ I can't stand
this indecision ♪

♪ Married with a
lack of vision ♪

♪ Everybody wants
to rule the world ♪

Do you remember my
face when I realized

it was hopeless between us?

Or does everything get
jumbled in your head?

On a sequence of numbers,

but a blur of
images, impressions,


The way most of us
remember things.

I finally met someone,
someone as strong and willful

as my father,

someone who wanted me.

S. E. Marbury.

I moved into her villa
in the French countryside

and we poured American
money into a relief fund

during the war,
a health service,

a camp for children.

Nikola Tesla outlives
Edison, Westinghouse,

Sarah Bernhardt, and my father

and dies alone at
the Hotel New Yorker

on January 7th, 1943.

He was 87 years old.

Destitute but not forgotten.

Over 2,000 people
attend his funeral

at the Cathedral of
St. John the Divine.

He was always looking ahead,

projecting himself
into the future.

Maybe he promised more
than he could deliver,

maybe he overreached,

or maybe the world
that we are living in

is a dream that
Tesla dreamed first.