Published Jan 21, 2010The first image we see in Creation is a foetus in the womb reaching out its fingers in a manner that evokes Michelangelo's infamous Sistine Chapel ceiling painting. Immediately, we know that for the next two hours the tenants of science and religion will war with each other to a bloody end.
Exploring the family life of Charles Darwin, which led to the release of his revolutionary text, On The Origin Of Species, we are introduced to 1859 British society, which is bound together by the church, and Darwin, as described by one colleague, is on a mission to kill God. We see Darwin sitting uncomfortably with his family during church sermons, biting his tongue while his wife Emma and children cope with the increasing familial rifts. Darwin's family, like nature, is a battlefield. And his attempt to save his daughter, Annie, from the wrong end of natural selection threatens to explode the pressure cooker.
Those looking for a detailed treatise of On The Origin of Species better look elsewhere, as this film, which is based on Randall Keynes's book, Annie's Box, is largely an exploration of the family conflict of Darwin's life. He is a man raging against God for more than the obvious reasons, and the demons of his family torture him with their constant emergence. Real-life partners Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, as Charles and Emma Darwin, give career-making performances. Bettany is raw, unfiltered madness searching for redemption, while Connelly maintains a calm surface that seethes and quakes with despair and rage.
Creation is a gorgeous, lush visual feast. The use of neutral earthy tones (a cornucopia of greens and browns) and natural, pure light give it a highly stylized gloss. The narrative, like a poetic novel, is non-linear, as we jump back and forth in Darwin's life, which heightens the impending sense of doom tenfold (although the waking-up-from-a-nightmare device is well overused). We know from the first ten minutes that his daughter has died, but that doesn't diminish the horror of it when we finally witness it an hour later. Accompanied by Christopher Young's musical score, comprised of heart-pulling violins and cellos, it turns the story into a rich aria.
Stripping away the politics, Creation is a wonderfully crafted film on the forces at work on a family in grief, leaving you drifting in its world long after the credits have rolled. (D Films)