Science is backed by factual evidence and many people find their beliefs based on facts. They believe in what they can see, feel, taste, hear, and smell, and don’t believe in a higher power that created the universe. On the other end of the spectrum, many people believe that a higher being created our universe and they don’t need facts, because they have faith. Somewhere in the middle, however, are those that believe Science and Religion are one in the same and should coexist together.
Ian (Michael Pitt), a molecular biologist, is fascinated by eyes and by the fact that no two are alike. Since he was young, he would take pictures of people’s eyes and one night during a costume party, he found a pair of the most-unique eyes, on the most-unique woman he’d ever met. Unfortunately, he never got her name and returned to work, where he was attempting to cure color-blindness in rats and eventually add sight to organisms without it. Together, with his partner Karen (Brit Marling), the two work to make a scientific revolution.
While he’d always been bent on disproving any “God” with his scientific endeavors, a series of chance events eventually lead Ian to a pair of eyes that matched the ones at the party and from there, he met Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). The two connect immediately, with the exception of their differing beliefs in the universe and spirituality. As time goes by and science of the Iris grows, Ian becomes more and more troubled by his beliefs, especially after one event changes part of his perspective. Science is fact, but there can’t always be an explanation for everything.
I Origins is one of the most perplexing and thoughtful films I’ve seen all year and the way it handles its subject matter with delicacy and respect, is astounding. To try to sum this film up would be difficult, as it took me on quite the journey and left me happily piecing parts of the story together. The acting is superb, the story is mystifying, and the many subjects tackled in this film all manage to relate, while also finding independence in certain areas. For many people, the bridge between Science and Religion is becoming more of a plausible belief and this film’s logic offers up many possibilities for such a bridge to be true.
Michael Pitt hasn’t yet become a huge star, but he’s all the makings to become one of the industries most-unique actors, especially after his exceptional performance in this film. His character is a devout scientist and he dispels all notions of some higher being that controls and creates everything. He is passionate about his work and his lover, but his patience is easily tested whenever religion is brought up, or whenever he is in a time of hurt. Pitt’s range of emotions is remarkable, as one minute he is a staunch scientists attempting to create eyes in creatures, and the next he’s carefree with his lover. He emotes a lot with his eyes and his facial expressions, which become all the more telling as the film goes on. He was absolutely captivating in the role and to see his character grow was wonderful.
While both wonderful in their own right, Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Brit Marling couldn’t play more opposite characters. Berges-Frisbey is full of a life that’s composed of spirituality, as she lives so nonchalantly. Marling, on the other-hand, puts all her time and effort into scientific discovery and is extremely serious and straight-forward about her work. Yet, the two both show love in two distinctly different ways that allow them to share something in common. Both bring brains and beauty to the screen, but win you over with such understated performances.
Writer/Director Mike Cahill fascinated me with his film Another Earth and I Origins finds many of the same beats, while also dealing with Science/Religion differently. The science within the film makes sense and is wildly engaging, especially given the technology and the advances we’re working towards. In terms of religion, Cahill doesn’t focus on one religion, but more the essence of being spiritual and believing that maybe we aren’t meant to explain everything. The universe works in mysterious ways and to question it all could be a waste of time, distracting us from people who matter and from discovery that can be made here on Earth. The crossover between the two is nothing new, but Cahill’s subtle presentation of it is what has really stuck with me.
We do spend all our time with Michael Pitt and his studies, relationships, and hardships, but I felt like we didn’t get enough out of each. Brit Marling gets the shorter end of the staff in this film and her talents could have been used to a greater effect. This film wrestles with the brilliant Iris concept, but fails to do much after another storyline takes precedence. Sometimes in this film, things happen abruptly and I felt as if those happenings weren’t dealt with fully, leaving me slightly reluctant to follow each person’s motivations in the film. I will defend the ending though, that I’m sure is going to confuse some and upset others.
I Origins is strange, romantic, beautiful, scientific, spiritual, and almost always engaging. Many of the Earth and Universe’s truths lie within this film and get some sort of exploration at one time, or another. I didn’t leave the theater completely stunned by this film, but it was certainly an intelligent piece of art that baffled me from time to time. I really adored the lead performances and the direction that Cahill took the story (most of the time). This film is Science Fiction is a more pure form than we’re used to, as it has a very clear human element to it. Still, it hints at so much more in this Universe and I was left hoping for a bit more of that. By the by, it was an enjoyable film that I’m sure to revisit a few more times, as it’s certainly a stimulating experience.
I Origins Trailer