The one quality I try to seek out in any movie, is that immediate sensation when the credits appear, and you are left frozen to the seat, mouth wide open, and all you can think is ‘f*ck’. After a surreal outing with ‘Another Earth’ that was met with mixed responses, director Mike Cahill tries to tweak out the audience with a different angle, with completely different results. Needless to say, I, Origins left me completely floored.
Michael Pitt stars as Ian Gray, a student studying the evolution of the eye. He has a theory that if he can prove the complete evolution of the eye, he can therefore disprove ‘intelligent design’ and consequently the existence of God. He obsesses over this, taking photos of anyones eyes he can get close to, and remains convinced that what he is doing will pay off.
His obsession with eyes reaches a climax when he falls for an attractive woman called Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) at a fancy dress party. Her eyes are special, as they pierce through her masked-costume he notices small differences, patterns and blotches to that of what you would consider a ‘regular’ eye, and becomes infatuated with her. She leaves him with nothing but the photo to recognise her by.
As he continues to hunt for the missing pieces in the evolution of the eye with his lab partner played brilliantly by Brit Marling, he pursues the mysterious girl from the party with the special eyes through a series of coincidences and strange happenings, which continue throughout the film. The breakthrough on both fronts seems imminent and Ian’s life appears to be taking off in all directions.
Although it sounds like a lot, this is only the opening 15-20 minutes. It sets the scene perfectly and from this point on, the upcoming moments of jaw-dropping disbelief are best kept a secret. As they explore the potential avenues for the evolution of the eye, Ian’s theories are tested, and the notion of basing your beliefs on cold hard facts create a difficult situation when the evidence may or may not match up to your hypothesis.
I, Origins is an indie-looking, atmospheric drama filled with great performances and a concept displayed so convincingly it borders on the chilling. It reaches the dizzying heights of far-fetchedness in the final act, but it has been so creative, and completely entrancing that when it finally reaches the conclusion, all disbelief has been subconsciously suspended.
With some of the score being provided by Radiohead to accompany the beautiful cinematography, it only adds to the films disorientating nature, as it darts from Sundance-styled romantic drama to flat out thriller. It treads a fine line between pretension and creativity, but there’s something in this that pulls you in. A rewatch of the trailer or a listen to the soundtrack gives me goosebumps, and in writing this I feel compelled to watch it again.
It could ruffle a few feathers, especially to those who are completely set in their ways with regards to their beliefs, but I would hope that for the movies run-time those people could take a step back and see this for what it is. I, Origins is a captivating tale of the human ability to find love, seek answers and adapt to life and its ever-changing landscape.
Oh, and wait until the credits have finished – there’s a little bit more, as if it hadn’t done enough to fry your brain already.