July 24, 2014
Doctor Ian Grey researches eyes. He's looking to mutate mice's innate ability to see only black and white into the facility to see color. And the symbolism is intentional.
Enter sultry Sofi. Halloween night Ian is ravished and enraptured by the elusive masked seductress before she disappears into the night. (Not accidentally, you can only see her eyes). Thus launches Ian's coalesced quest for orbs and amore.
Clad with a scientist's myopic view of the universe, (that every question has a clinical answer), Ian's closed vision soon clashes with the Sofi's open mind.
Meanwhile, Ian's new assistant Karen joins his study of lab rats. The beautiful grounded Karen further ferments this conflictive pic as Ian's intellectual
soulmate - the nixed word being an anathema to the beliefs of these two devout scientists.
Triggered by tragedy and discovery, Ian pursues a path of inquiry that leads him from Idaho to India, as he once again searches for that iridescent iris. (The impossible challenge here is to promote a provocative film without betraying any spoilers.)
Clearly, director/writer Michael Cahill loves an enigma. Mysterious, mystifying, mystic, mythic. All describe I Origins.
Empirical vs spiritual. Evolution vs creationism vs intelligent design. Id vs I. You name it, the plotline probes it.
All I Origins's disparate theses can be justified via some character's doctrine. And all its convoluted storylines can be clarified via some character's creed.
The sparring trio of Michael Pitt (Ian), Brit Marling (Karen) and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (Sofi) debate the metaphysical, philosophical, scientific, and religious axioms of life.
Steven Yeun (Kenny) is the lab partner who turned corporate. He has access to an iris scan database, which is a vital piece in this puzzle. And which injects the commercial incentive to the ongoing dialogue.
The supporting cast includes the stunning young Indian actress Kashish (playing Salomina), who with an affixed gaze incarnates reincarnation - as if there were not enough contemplative motifs already.
Archie Panjabi (the protective Priya Varma) assists Ian in his New Delhi search for the one in a million I with the luminous eyes. (Panjabi's fine performances make all of her TV and film roles de rigueur viewing).
The fleeting cameo of the disturbing William Mapother (from Lost) spawns its own query: why is he cast as a cleric? He's just too creepy to typify the Church...or maybe not.
The soundtrack and music were thoughtfully and subtly selected, and the cinematography was agile and artful.
You depart the cinematic experience feeling both manipulated and stimulated. But, then, Cahill wants you to penetrate and ponder I Origins' relentless residuum of opposites. And he succeeds.
I advise getting sucked into the fray and engaging in an animated mental row with friends and foes. Then, at the very least, you will forfend dementia. (I refer to the list of abstract exercises recommended by neurologists to upkeep a healthy brain - like Sudoku or some hearty wholesome intellectual wrestling).
Just do it.
Since I am a Features freak, and since I Origins is still in the theaters and the DVD is in the evolutionary stage, I shall add my own interesting tidbits.
No, Michael Pitt is not related to Brad P, but Mapother is Tom C's first cousin. (I say that without having any definitive genome tests on the Pitts, but no such proof is required for the Cruise/Mapother families. Marriage and Birth Certificates suffice.)
Cahill and Marling met, collaborated and shared a house at Georgetown University in their teens. I Origins is their third joint venture, he as a writer/director and she as a writer/actor.
Enough gossipy stuff.
Any film comes with the cache of credibility when supported by Sundance. Since 2003, the Festival has annually awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Prize to a feature film that "focuses on science or technology as a theme, or depicts a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character." Besides I Origins, Werner Herzog's Grizzly Bear may be the only film you recognize among the 11 winners - unless you saw Cahill's Another Earth, his first Sloane winner, also a thinking man's movie. And a thinking chick's flick - he co-wrote it with Brit Marling.
Director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Before Night Falls) inspires Cahill. Another influential filmmaker is Krzysztof Kieslowski (Double Life of Véronique and The Three Colors Trilogy). As both favored heady and poetic content, Cahill fans can expect more cerebral cinema from his career.
Finally, for your I Origins Extra Info, Cahill shot 273 pairs of real eyes and used 200 visual effects (mostly more retinae duets).
I say see it.
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Mike Cahill
Cast: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi, Kashish
Spoiler Alert! The following clip gives away most of the plot points of the film. You have been warned.