Brit Marling and Michael Pitt feature in Mike Cahill's ambitious sci-fi thriller
Actress Brit Marling made a name for herself in the low budget, conceptually ambitious sci-fi thrillers Sound of My Voice, from Zal Batmanglij, and Another Earth, which she co-wrote with director Mike Cahill. Both films were characterised by thoughtful narratives and strong performances and I Origins, Marling's third collaboration with Cahill (they also co-wrote and directed the documentary Boxers and Ballerinas), proves just as notable.
Marling plays a supporting role here as Karen, a partner in a New York research laboratory alongside moody, pragmatic biologist Ian (Michael Pitt). Ian has a specific interest in the idea that the iris pattern of every human eye is unique and a chance encounter with a masked figure causes him to be drawn to the peepers of model Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), with whom he embarks on a whirlwind romance. Their affair is fuelled and hampered by their radically different natures: he demands scientific proof to support his beliefs, while she is spiritual and ethereal. A tragic accident propels the narrative forward in an unexpected direction, with Ian pondering the existence of the soul and whether this is something that can be proved.
Like Another Earth, I Origins takes such care addressing its subject that there’s little opportunity to ruminate on writer-director Cahill’s notions until the film is over. As with Shane Carruth's recent Upstream Colour, audiences will have more than enough on their plate just following the complex and challenging ideas involved, as well as stomaching some intense physical horror.
But, aside from the cheeky wordplay in the title, I Origins maintains an astringent view of both science and religion. It’s the work of intelligent filmmakers with a welcome willingness to shoot for the big questions of life, the universe and everything.
Selected release from Fri 26 Sep.