SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2014
By Don Simpson | January 24, 2014
Director: Mike Cahill
Writer: Mike Cahill
Starring: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi, Kashish, Cara Seymour, William Mapother, Crystal Anne Dickinson, Venida Evans
Due to the current lack of concrete evolutionary mapping, the eye is often lauded as proof of intelligent design. So, Ian Gray (Michael Pitt), a PhD student studying molecular biology, is attempting to disprove Creationism by fully mapping the evolution of the eye. He is reluctantly teamed with a first year student, Karen (Brit Marling), who quickly dedicates her time to Ian’s cause, agreeing to do the tedious work of looking for the PAX 6 gene — a key gene that enables eyesight — in a species without eyes. It will be like finding a needle in a haystack, but if Karen can locate that species, they can then attempt to mimic the evolutionary process by mutating that creature in such a way that it grows a fully functioning eye. In other words, they want to play god.
As a side project, Ian is obsessed with photographing people’s eyes. This is how he comes to meet Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a mysteriously masked woman with sectoral heterochromia whom he grows increasingly obsessed with following a fleeting sexcapade on a toilet. Though the scientifically inclined Ian may not believe in fate, it is a string of numerical clues that eventually reconnect him with Sofi. The spiritually motivated Sofi approaches life in sharp contrast to Ian’s overly pragmatic ways. They say that opposites attract, an hypothesis that is proven by the undeniably magnetic chemistry between these two souls — if, unlike Ian, you actually believe in the existence of the soul. Though Ian would ardently disagree, Sofi is undoubtedly his soulmate; and, as the introduction to Mike Cahill’s I Origins prophetically suggests, Sofi also serves as a key element in Ian’s Sophistic quest to [dis]prove religion once and for all.
An infinitely profound examination of the faith versus science debate, Cahill wraps his heady existential diatribe around the adage that the eye is the window to the soul, specifically utilizing the presumed uniqueness of an individual’s iris patterns in this contemplation of god’s existence. Being that eyes are directly connected to the human brain, and the brain retains memories, I Origins suggests the possibility that if two people (one living, one dead) share identical iris patterns that they may also share memories, possibly even the same soul (thus proving reincarnation). Whether or not this is sound science is up to the molecular scientists in the audience to decide, but Cahill’s entertainingly thoughtful hypothesis is sure to incite a chain reaction of theological contemplation among even the most ardent non-believers.