The human eye is one of the most uniquely beautiful and intriguing objects in the entire known universe. There are perhaps more metaphors and phrases to describe its mysterious nature than any other part of the human anatomy. The windows are the eyes to the soul maybe the most popular of these phrases. And in the film I Origins this idea is expanded upon like never before.
Written and directed by Mike Cahill (Another Earth), I Origins is the story of molecular biologist and all around eye enthusiast Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt), who is studying the evolution of the human eye in an attempt at proving that evolution, and not a God figure, is responsible for the creation of humanity. He hopes to do so by proving that the eye evolved and was not created. Years later, a series of incredible, almost impossible scientific coincidences causes Dr. Gray to reassess his entire belief system.
Director Mike Cahill is aware of the real-life ramifications the film may have, but says his intentions were not to create a work that espoused one belief system over another.
“I think the movie’s kind of earnest and sincere,” Mike Cahill said during a press event for I Origins. “It’s not trying to stir up shit in a way that’s cheap. I think it’s sincerely asking these question. Like, if this were to be the case could you imagine a narrative in which maybe, possibly, something else happens when we die.”
In the film, Dr. Gray’s soul mate turned philosophical catalyst is Sofi, played by actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Sofi is an idealist who is in touch with her spiritual side. She nudges the science-minded Dr. Gray to at least be open to the idea of a higher power.
“I would say that she invites him to see the world in an entirely different way,” says Berges-Frisbey. “It’s a little bit how the film does to the [audience] in a way. It doesn’t tell you the way you should think. It just invites you to think about it. She tries different ways. She jokes about it, then she has an even more serious conversation and uses his vocabulary to explain those things. That’s something that I’m amazed by. She sees this possibility inside of him. I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s haunted by her.”
For a scientist to ever recant his or her worldview, like Dr. Gray considers, is tantamount to sacrilege. “He’s obsessed with science and when you really research these guys you realize that you have to be obsessed,” says actor Michael Pitt on his character. “You pick a thesis and you go in that direction. You don’t know for seven years if you went down the wrong road. It’s heavy.”
A particularly enjoyable aspect about I Origins is the ambitious subject matter. The conflict between science and spirituality is as old as a millennia. However, the film broaches the subject in a clever way along with incorporating the real science of eye matrix into the film. The on screen chemistry between Michael Pitt and Astrid Berges-Frisbey is passionate and real. While actors Brit Marling (Dr. Gray’s wife) and Steven Yuen, roommate and best friend of Dr. Gray, provided integral DNA, true north hope and comic relief to the overall tapestry of the movie.
Although I, Origins drags substantially in spots, it succeeds in taking an ambitious idea and making it bite-sized enough for consumption.
The Shadow League gives I Origins a B.