Friday, 25 September 2009
If you'll forgive me for allowing my inner pretentiousness the floor for a few seconds, the atheist-theist debate is something brutally under-used both in the context of cinema and of real life pontification. I could go on for hours about this issue but its something no-one ever wants to discuss. Maybe I'm missing a privacy thing here, but it mystifies me. The same goes for film, because it seems to me that this is a subject with enough thematic juice to carry even a crappy film but anyway, I'm sure this is just my inner antagonist talking. Now, with all inner personality traits in the proper upright and locked position I guess I should get to this film. Which yes, does have something to do with my opening paragraph, if only in ways that could be described as marginal.
The film itself is about legendary scientist Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany), and more specifically his writing of 'The origin of species', which in time has come to be known as the book that killed God. In other words by proposing the theory of evolution, it puts to bed the theory of creationism, so to speak. The film isn't really about these ideas, although it does cover them intermittently, and is more about the Darwin the man's inability to deal with the death of his daughter. Its a character piece and a terrificly acted one at that, as all British films like this tend to be. Bettany is a great actor in everything he's in even if its crap, which is the case more often then not, and gives his strongest performance in a while nailing the subtler moments as well as the more award friendly ones, which is always makes a performance more interesting to watch. Kudos too to his off-screen wife Jennifer Connelly, who here playing his on-screen wife Emma, does well with both the accent and the actual acting. In such an under-written role too.
If I have a major complaint it is that it didn't delve into the ideas quite the same way it did the humanity. Character is the most important thing that could contribute to the success of a film and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise, but this medium can be used as a philosophical tool as well as an emotional one and to me short-changing in this aspect, particularly in the study of a man whose very notoriety rests on ideas, is a little disappointing. Sure this an undeniable personal preference and I should imagine that most people don't want any college boy debate to go with their popcorn but sometimes its justified dammit.