Thinking man’s science fiction that went overlooked: ‘I, Origins’

i-origins-2014

It’s been a while since a film belonging to the science fiction genre has managed to blow my mind in ways I never quite expected. Hate to say this but even Arrival didn’t manage to do something like this.  I,Origins – from Mike Cahill, the director of Another Earth – is a film that never got the recognition it much deserved when it first came out, three years ago. Even I kept putting off watching it because of the mixed reviews. How silly of me.

Luckily, a friend of mine strongly recommended it to me recently telling me that it has something that might blow my mind. And he was right. I’ll try to keep my thoughts on this as brief as possible.

Okay, so Michael Pitt plays a scientist called Ian Gray who is involved in a deep and intense research on the human eye. He is obsessed with it. His reason for this, in a nutshell, is this: He wants to disprove the existence of God by using the design of the eye as a sound argument for evolution.

He meets a girl called Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and she is his exact opposite when it comes to beliefs: she believes there is a superpower watching all of us, thinks that white peacocks are the “spirits” of other people and that if Ian thinks that blind worms can be modified to develop the sense of sight, why can’t there be human beings with an extra, “modified” sense who can perceive something that cannot be seen?

That doesn’t change his beliefs. Not yet. He has a lab assistant Karen (Brit Marling) who is practically his female version and one wonders why he isn’t dating her instead. I’ll stop right here because I proceed further, I might ruin it for those who haven’t seen it. Because it would be hard to discuss the story without mentioning the spoilers. This is an incredibly brilliant piece of science fiction that is brimming with plenty of intellectually stimulating ideas.

The central debate at the heart of it is the classic “Science vs Faith” and everything else around it is just window dressing. It doesn’t clearly spell out for us if there is an “intelligent creator” or not but rather, it invites you to think deeply on this and keep an open mind. Most of the renowned scientists, save for few, are open-minded and willing to accept some evidence from the spiritual world provided they are logical. And this seems to be the film’s intention too.

There is an interesting conversation that occurs between Pitt and Marling in which she tells him about something that Dalai Lama said about changing his beliefs if he thinks that some scientific evidence is strong enough to disprove them. And then she asks Pitt if he would be willing to do the same thing if some rock solid spiritual evidence goes against his “strong” scientific data. We never see his answer. But then he goes to India, sees someone and makes a discovering that stuns both him and us.

And then there is an Avengers-style post-credits sequence that presents a lot of possibilities. A lot of “What ifs” popped up in my mind. Of course, this is all fiction but it makes you wonder if some hidden pattern inside your body holds a potential clue to life’s – and the universe’s – endless mysteries. The screenplay, along with the cinematography, is fluid and spontaneous and aptly complements the endlessly fascinating narrative. Do check this out if you are a huge science fiction fan.

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