Natural Selection and the Origin of Species

Creation

Jon Amiel’s film Creation is a thought-provoking and beautifully crafted story about Charles Darwin who went up against Victorian religious principles and published the ground-breaking book entitled Origin of Species in 1859.

Darwin’s Origin of the Species was a seminal work and changed forever the way man viewed himself, his position on this planet and his relationship with his God. That is Western Man. Darwin after having traveled far and wide from Australia to Tierra del Fuego on the tip of South America and most notably to Islands near Borneo, witnessing a wide range of the most fascinating aspects of nature and of the various inhabitants of these exotic lands returned to Victorian England and expounded the theory of natural selection, how man and beast are all linked through years of gradual mutation and survival of different species. How man itself is very much part of Nature and not the masters of it.

Creation is a film that will haunt the viewer with great images, superb cinematography and taut and compelling performances by the underated Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, the devoted wife and his first cousin Emma Westwood, also mother of his children who turns to God as refuge after the death of their eldest daughter. Both of them as parents suffer themselves for the scientific theory of survival of the fittest. Bettany as Darwin is outstanding as a man who initially is grappling to come to terms with the loss of a child but also the realization that his findings and work whilst not only be true will also shake the moral fibre of Victorian society who were bound by the book of Genesis and the notion that on the 7th day God created man to be the carer of all the forms of life found on this planet.

Darwin’s theory of evolution that man had evolved over millions of years from mammals like Monkeys and Orangutans was ground breaking and opened up a whole range of scientific, religious and anthropological debates about nature versus nurture, biological similarities and eventually paved the way for man to better understand the environment he was living in and how he was an intricate part of its evolution over millions of years. Creation as a film centres on Darwin’s anguish as a father, a writer and the realization that his discoveries were groundbreaking only to be proven correct by fellow scientists in the Spice Islands, overcoming the conflicts of religion and faith allowing him to publish the Origin of Species. Jon Amiel’s filmic reference is rich taking from Jane Campion’s The Piano to similar period films about the Victorian quest for discovery such as Mountains on the Moon and Greystoke: Lord of the Apes.

Lord of the Apes

Jennifer Connelly holds her own as the wife of a genius, a role very similar to what she played in her Oscar winning performance as the wife of brilliant but delusional Princeton mathematician John Forbes Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

Creation is a period drama focusing on the anguish of writing a seminal work and the events and inner demons that a writer suffers during his own private moments of creativity, more about the anguish of writing than the repercussions that will follow publication. Stark Victorian scenery is reminiscent of Capote whilst he battles to grasp the complexity of the Clutter killings in 1950’s desolate Kansas and the effects of capital punishment. As cinema Capote is more riveting whilst Creation is certainly as compelling yet lacks in the power to make it a contender on Oscar night relegating it to that film about Charles Darwin.  Notwithstanding Creation is worth watching even as a talking point about concepts which as man, we simply now in the 21st century take for granted. Man is evolving every day and nature is keeping that evolution in check despite the advancements of technology.

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