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:: Creation

The idea for Creation first came to life when screenwriter John Collee mentioned to his friend, director Jon Amiel, a book he had read called ‘Annie’s Box’. Written by Randal Keynes about his great, great grandfather Charles Darwin, it is a personal account of the renowned Victorian scientist and the man who, despite initially training to be a parson and being married to a deeply religious woman, would publish work that would disprove the existence of God.

The 150th Anniversary of Darwin’s publishing of On Origin of Species – By Means of Natural Selection, occurred in 2009 (which was also the bicentenary of his birth) and what the filmmakers have brought to the screen is Darwin, the man, not the controversial scientist. Given that the script was based on a book written by a direct descendant of Darwin’s, the film can be forgiven for not delving more deeply into Darwin’s work and the steady build toward his revolutionary study and controversial findings. In Creation, we see Darwin the family man, who adores his children and his wife, but also the tormented soul, stricken with illness - although the film does not explore what it is that the great man suffers from.

Darwin has a deep bond with his ten year old daughter who actively engages him in his research and she insists of hearing stories of peoples and animals encountered during voyages on the Ship, The Beagle, to such far-off places as South America and Asia. She asks him to recount the heartbreaking story of a female baby orangutan, taken from her family group in the jungle and sold to the London Zoo. A bright child with an enquiring mind, she appears to be her father’s favourite and it is because of her, Darwin finds the courage to send his manuscript for On Origin of Species to his publisher.

Paul Bettany plays Darwin and the producers of the film were struck by how much he physically resembled the scientist. Jennifer Connolly (married to Paul Bettany) plays his wife Elizabeth Darwin and mother of his four children. Martha West, in her feature film debut, plays Annie Darwin. The story moves between past and present, blurring the lines between the real and the unreal and interestingly, it is vaguely reminiscent of the film where Connolly and Bettany met, on the set of A Beautiful Mind (2001), and it takes a little while to realise exactly what Annie’s role in the film actually serves. Her role in the film’s narrative in linked to the story of the baby orangutan and it is these scenes that steal the show with such poignancy, sadness and emotional impact.

There is still room for a biographical film about this amazing individual and whilst viewing Creation, I yearned for more exploration of Darwin’s theories and their impact at the time of their publication. However, given that the film is based on what are obviously affectionate rememberances of a scientist and family man, and written by a direct descendant, the film is certainly of interest as, but perhaps more fitting as a tele-movie than a feature film.