Wednesday, 3 November 2010
I had been avoiding this film because I was fearful it would indiscriminately side with the evolutionists or creationists. What a mistake I made. It is a film that captures the anguish of a dawning realisation that all the facts point to something which will challenge the status quo in such a way as there will be no return. This is not a film that depicts Darwin as the wilful destroyer of Christendom, but as a loving father, husband and scientist driven by the need to find answers. Darwin was no saint - but neither was he any more a sinner than you or I.
My own preconceptions had blinded me. I was delighted to be transported to the world of real scientific discovery and exploration. To a place where someone could think completely original thoughts and over time see them evolve into a coherent system that allowed a new understanding of the world around us to coalesce and blossom as The Origin of Species.
One thing that film makes patently clear is the cost to Darwin and his family of the pathway his vocation forced him to follow. He was right to be angry with the local vicar for cruelly punishing his daughter by making her kneel on rock salt until she repented. His loss of faith and his desire to seek a common understanding with his wife who maintained hers is an exquisitely choreographed ballet wrought with emotional tension, guilt and ultimately forgiveness and acceptance.
This film moved me to cry at two points. Once because of a generous reconciliation between his second daughter and Darwin and once because in Jennifer Connelly's portrayal of Emma, his wife, I saw displayed such gracious and generous characteristics as I have only previously seen exhibited by my wife! For me this underlines the fact that this is film not so much about philosophical idealism but about relationships. Of course it touches on the intellectual battles that were being fought and this is evidenced by the ongoing correspondence and meetings with Huxley and Hooker. Whilst that may be the vehicle that provides the story's means of mobility, the landscape through which it travels is a landscape of relationships.
I would happily have watched it again immediately. I cannot remember when I last felt like that about a film. If you've not seen it, put it on your list.
I'll give it 7.5/10.