I Origins review

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Film with a metaphysical bent like Upstream Color and The Tree Of Life can vex viewers by reaching too far and making them feel stupid – we’re still talking about them, though. Writer/director Mike Cahill’s follow-up to Another Earth is another speculative effort that does both these things. Like the Radiohead songs swooning on the soundtrack, it’ll either leave you floored or bored.

“What if the eyes really were the windows to the soul?” it asks, using Michael Pitt’s lovelorn scientist Ian to provide yet more questions. A biometrist studying colourblindness in mice, Ian meets Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) at a party, then loses her, Cinderella-style, until fate intervenes. While he falls in love with this dreamy free spirit, he and sensible lab partner Karen (Brit Marling) make amazing leaps forward.

To synopsise I Origins is to stifle the way it spins off at fascinating tangents, switching from hipster romance to existential thriller. Yes, there are moments when it pages Dr Pretension, but there are many others that pull the rug from beneath your feet like Vertigo or Videodrome . It’s a film of thematic contrasts: seeing and blindness, movie love (as exemplified by the idealised Sofi) versus real love (as offered by better bet Karen), faith over science. Indeed, Ian and Karen soon find themselves playing God, until ‘God’ shows them something even bigger than themselves...

It’s also a film of unforgettable moments. Some are transporting, such as when Ian finds Sofi by following a trail of “snake eyes” to a billboard depicting her impossibly colourful irises. Others are oddly moving, such as the way Sofi haunts Ian’s senses, through perfume and porn. Even those left cold by the wild theorising will have to admit the acting’s excellent, the cinematography and soundtrack sublime, the destination wholly original. Many films explore the idea of eyes as the windows to the soul. Most forget the soul.

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Freelance Writer

Matt Glasby is a freelance film and TV journalist. You can find his work on Total Film - in print and online - as well as at publications like the Radio Times, Channel 4, DVD REview, Flicks, GQ, Hotdog, Little White Lies, and SFX, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film and Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England.