Every year there are always a few strange, indie sci-fi features that premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. These often garner a fair amount of praise, offering unique approaches to the genre, but are somewhat divisive. Robot and Frank and Safety Not Guaranteed have filled this role in past years, and 2014 saw unusual movies like The Signal. Another that is set to get a theatrical run later this month is Mike Cahill’s I Origins, and we have three new clips for you to consider before the July 18 release.
The film follows Ian Gray (Michael Pitt), a molecular biologist who specializes on the evolutionary origins of the eye. He’s a hard scientist, all about the facts and figures and what he can see. When he falls in love with, and loses, a mysterious, spiritual woman, Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), everything he thinks he knows is called into question, and his studies have big implications for both science and religion.
This first clip, called “Disprove God,” sets up the main thematic conflict of the film: god versus science. You also get a good feel for how the relationship between Ian and Sofi is going to go, him on the cold, analytical side, while she is a free spirit. You can bet that she talks about god and the universe a lot.
Clip number two, “Crazy People,” shows Ian and his research partners Karen (Brit Marling) and Kenney (Steven Yeun) discussing and debating their research. You can tell that they’re supposed to be pushing at the boundaries of their chosen field, touching on topics that go beyond traditional science, like reincarnation.
The third clip invokes that venerable piece of wisdom that the eyes are the windows to the soul, whatever that is. When a young girl in India is born with the exact same iris patter as Sofi—something that is supposed to be impossible because they’re unique, like fingerprints—Ian must embark on a journey that will change his entire outlook on the world.
I honestly can’t tell how I feel about I Origins. Marling’s movies are super hit and miss for me. For every Sound of My Voice, which I loved, there is an Another Earth, which I very much did not—and this film teams Marling with Cahill, her Another Earth director and co-writer, so I can’t help but be skeptical. While I can see this film totally annoying the shit out of me, there is still a great deal going for it: the concept is esoteric enough to be intriguing, the film looks gorgeous, and the god-versus-science debate is always good fodder for some fireworks.
After the film premiered at Sundance, a friend watched the original trailer and described it as a science fiction film for people who don’t really like sci-fi, and from what we’ve seen, that’s an apt description. You can’t help but think that people who actually like science are going to hate this movie—it looks like it falls on the more touchy-feely side. If nothing else, however, it should be interesting to see how I Origins meshes the scientific realm with the more metaphysical aspects of the story.