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The visionary who wanted to give the world free electricity

Teslaify Me
Regissør: Janja Glogovac

FORGOT GENI? / The film Teslafy Me wipes dust off the story of inventor Nikola Tesla, whom we can thank every time we are connected to the world.


Director Janja Glogovac has made an entertaining documentary about Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) and his inventions. We get to know an astonishingly brilliant man through a movie whose core message is that humanity ignores the legacy of Tesla – which can be dangerous.

The name Tesla may be associated today primarily with Elon Musk's electric car – named after the inventor – but Tesla's groundbreaking work within wireless transference and his talent for combining the scientific and the mysterious are not entirely forgotten. Tesla patented a huge number of inventions and fought to protect them for large parts of their lives, inventions that form the very foundation of today's globally connected world.

Precise predictions

Tesla, concerned with the universe's own intelligence, foresaw a world where we could talk to and see others at the touch of a button. He even predicted that this would be possible via a device "that fits in his pocket".

Tesla's ideas were perceived as threatening and those with less imagination than himself.

Like the minds of other visionaries ahead of its time, Tesla's ideas were perceived as threatening by those with less imagination than himself – not least those who risked losing money on his inventions: Tesla was determined that his inventions should is used to provide free power to people all over the world.

This did not stop Thomas Edison from trying to discredit Tesla, including by killing an elephant in New York by passing alternating current through it to demonstrate the danger of Tesla's new electric current. [It's all pinned to movies in Edison's Electrocuting and Elephant from 1903, which you can search on YouTube, ed.] Edison performed several such electric shocks in his aggressive campaign against Tesla. (It is claimed that Edison himself was so terrified of electric shock that he kept his light bulbs at a voltage of just 100 volts.)

The film faithfully retells this story, but the fixed film title and use of commentators, including a "well-known numerologist" and an "inventor of Hollywood films," as well as Leonardo DiCaprio as an environmentalist, signal that the film seeks to reach a wider audience and not just to those who know Nikola Tesla and his inventions from before.

Tesla's roots

Slovenian-born Glogovac studied at Prague's famous film school FAMU, where she was taught by the experienced Czech director Otakar Vávra. She does not neglect Tesla's Balkan roots in the film [Tesla was born in Smiljan in today's Croatia, ed.] And lets inventors, engineers and an actor from the region who have all been inspired by Tesla's work contribute to the story of his life. In the eclectic cast we also find well-known Serbian-American performance artist Marina Abramović. Hopefully there is enough scientific and technical information in the film to satisfy both engineers and electricians, though many viewers will probably appreciate more esoteric stories such as Tesla's research on electromagnetism in the human body and its individual organs, where he found that the earth vibrates with a frequency that is the same as the brain "when in a state of global consciousness or has telepathic capabilities at 7.83 Hz".

Teslafy Me Director Janja Glogovac Slovenia
Teslafy Me. Director Janja Glogovac

The climate crisis is also present in the film. Tesla foresaw the dangers of fossil fuel and struggled to dig for carbon stocks, then «all the electricity you could wish for was available from the atmosphere and the earth».

Wireless experiments

Using powerful investors, Tesla designed and built an experimental building with the famous Wardenclyffe Tower, to wirelessly transmit energy around the world. But when Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated that messages could be transmitted wirelessly between Europe and the United States via a radio-based telegraph system (based on Tesla's discoveries), Tesla lost its investors, including the well-known financier JP Morgan.

Tesla was determined that his inventions should be used to provide free power to people all over the world.

There were hard times when the debtors eventually tore the Wardenclyffe tower for scrap value – to recover some of the money Tesla owed them.

«I don't care that they stole my idea, ”Tesla once said. "What bothers me is that they had no ideas of their own.»

The Nobel Committee in Stockholm endorsed Tesla, but still refused to allow him a Nobel Prize in 1937. They argued that his patents, which went back 40 years in time, had become too old and had not been developed. Again, narrow-minded people – inferior to Tesla's brilliance – prevented the visionary from shining.

By telling Tesla's story in a popular and accessible way, the film can Teslaify Me possibly paying attention to how valuable his inventions are. As Tesla said on one occasion: "The energy of a single thought can determine the movement of an entire universe."

Translated by Iril Kolle

Nick Holdsworth
Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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