Saturday, August 16, 2014

MIFF Session 15: I ORIGINS

Should I be worried that projects associated with Britt Marling have been showing a kind of new age vs science wishfulness? Are films like Sound of My Voice, Another Earth and this indications of an agenda beyond a flair for the everyday fantastic or are they more like interesting what ifs? One thing I can say is that whatever the motivation behind the scenarios her co-scripted projects feature some of the best dialogue of indy level films coming out of the US for years and the tightest narratives of anything on screens for that period. If there were to be a sincere resurrection of a Twilight Zone format I'd no one more than Cahill, Batmanglij and Marling to helm it.

Ian Grey is a molecular biologist whose subfield is eyes. We first meet him catching some rooftop air during a Halloween party. He is captivated by the luminous stare of a woman in a kind of bondage costume. A dialogue creates sparks. He photographs her eyes and they make it in the toilet. And then she's gone.

Obsessed, he hardly notices that he's been a assigned a beautiful young lab assistant until she asks a question that surprises him about his study. That thread may be termed the anti-god theme. The other one takes turns we don't expect which I won't spoil but involves the scientist being confronted with evidence of something that would turn his world upside down.

Throughout, the filmmaking is top notch. Performance centred direction of actors, more thematic eye references that you would ever need in a lifetime, dialogue whose wit is set effortlessly in naturalism, and a narrative-serving visual style and edit that breaks out when it needs to to take our breath away with an expertly physical camera movement. This is a movie you would only welcome once you're before it.

The problems are similar to those in Cahill's earlier film Another Earth except that here they suffer from increased ambition. Rhoda's story in Another Earth is given so much weight over the improbability of the scenario that we are happy to accept it. The issue at hand in I Origins while its conclusion is tempered by some neatly expressed confirmation bias, has more to struggle with. We are being asked to believe a lot more this time. Should we speculate that Marling's absence from the writing credits has resulted in this? I think there's no need as it feels like a large pace beyond the cheek of the earlier feature. But the notion that a scientist changing his mind when faced with compelling evidence loses note when he has already answered that question in dialogue. The false dichotomy that if it isn't science it must be god hangs too nakedly in the light after such a robust what if.

But then this is a what if and a strong drama beautifully played. I'll state my objections and sit back. It's only a movie, only a movie only a movie....

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