I hope Georgia Gwinnett College gets to show us this movie, there
seemed to be some doubt about that in the announcement for
Darwin Day festivities.
By Sarah Greene
Creation: The good, the bad, and the ugly
A new movie about Charles Darwin's life and work struggles for
distribution in the US, where many refuse to subscribe to the theory
[Published 29th January[masked]:43 PM GMT]
It's a given: we're diehard Charles Darwin fans. So how can we resist
a film that projects his life onto the big screen -- his study filled
with flasks and beakers, stuffed birds, fountain pens, giant beetles,
and a locked treasure chest with the beginnings of On the Origin of
At center of the new movie, Creation, is a 50-year-old Darwin at his
peak creativity, in 1859, the year Origin is published. The
conspicuously beardless Darwin (Paul Bettany) is sickly, from his
travels on the HMS Beagle, from the death of his beloved daughter
Annie, and from the burden of disavowing God. As Darwin grapples with
the implications of publicizing the full breadth of his research, the
memory of his recently departed 10-year-old daughter haunts him,
literally, with psychotic visions of her ghost.
The emotion surrounding Annie's untimely death overwhelms the film,
which is adapted from the biography Annie's Box, written by Darwin's
great-great-grandson Randal Keynes. Compared to the insights into
Darwin's work and philosophical reckonings in the movie, his struggle
to come to grips with his daughter's passing is a sentimental
distraction. Creation seems to suggest that Annie's death, which
occurred the same year Darwin completed Origin, was the trigger that
compelled his writing --- exposing the rift between religion and
biology that smoldered between Darwin and his devout wife and cousin
Emma (Jennifer Connelly, who is Paul Bettany's real-life wife).
Hydrotherapy and psychoanalysis bring Darwin to confront his family
issues, tender looks are exchanged, "relations" are resumed, and
Darwin's writer's block is vanquished.
While this may have been the case, I found vastly more compelling the
scenes where renowned biologist Thomas Huxley and botanist Joseph
Hooker -- part of the nine-member X-Club that met monthly and was
united by a "devotion to science, pure and free, untrammeled by
religious dogmas" -- visit the frail Darwin to persuade him to put to
rest all notions of God and write his tome. After all, it was 22 years
since he joined Robert FitzRoy on the voyage of HMS Beagle, and his
procrastinations had permitted Wallace to scoop his natural selection
theory in a mere 20 pages. Indeed, those of us who live our lives in
science might surmise that the Wallace essay gave Darwin that age-old
"publish or perish" anxiety and spurred the publication of his
Creation presents visual treasures and thought-provoking drama --
including recreations of Darwin's garden and pigeon shed, and
flashbacks of FitzRoy stealing Fuegian children in exchange for brass
buttons in order to "civilize" them in the name of Her Majesty.
Particularly moving was the sequence of Darwin bonding with Jenny -- a
young orangutan captured in Borneo, now lonely in Queen Victoria's
zoological garden -- and musing on the likeness of apes and humans.
Yet this is overshadowed by an unattractive truth about who might get
to see the film and experience such illuminating passages.
The ugly news is that Creation had difficulty finding a US distributor
and it remains uncertain whether it will be widely screened before
American audiences. Not only does a recent Gallop poll reveal that
only 39% of Americans believe in evolution (a "half-baked theory" that
informed Adolph Hitler's genocide, according to the
Christian-influenced Movieguide.com ), but apparently the majority of
US moviegoers prefer flying dragon-vampires to historical drama.
According to director Jon Amiel in a Wired.com interview, "The fact is
that any independent movie that's A) about something, B) period and C)
a drama, is likely to have a very hard time finding distribution these
Did this sad commentary on American society not only limit
distribution, but also inform the distracting, ghost-infused story
line of Creation? Regardless of the film's few letdowns, it succeeds
at portraying a smooth-faced Darwin in love with ideas and with life,
grappling with a question (often with his actual words! eloquent!)
that remains impossibly frightening to many, a century-and-a-half
later. One can only pray (to whomever) that Creationists and their
children have ample opportunity to see this movie and many more of its
ilk, conveying the beauty and complexity of science and evolution.
Creation is playing for a limited time in a handful of theatres in New
York, Washington, DC, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
\ Rich Hammett http://home.hiwaa...
/ [address removed]
\ Now I've gained some understanding of the only world that we see.
/ Things that I once dreamed of have become reality.
\ These walls that still surround me still contain the same old me,
/ Just one more who's searching for a world that ought to be.