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The man who took on God
Member Name: magenta23
Advantages: Interesting to see Darwin's home, great performances by Bettany and West, enjoyable
Disadvantages: Only gives us a small amount of Darwin's story
Creation was a film released in 2009 about the life of Charles Darwin. I am very interested in Darwin and had been meaning to watch it for a while but only recently got around to seeing it. It seems it didn't really make that much of a splash at the release or since, and considering the subject matter and the widespread enthusiasm for Darwin I found that surprising.
Creation is directed by English director John Amiel who I'd not heard of before watching this. Doing a little research I found that he was responsible for dreadful 2003 film 'The Core' and perhaps if I'd known this I wouldn't have bothered with Creation! The film stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin, Jennifer Connelly as Emma Darwin and cute child actress Martha West as Charles' daughter Annie Darwin.
Creation is based on the book 'Annie's Box - Charles Darwin, his daughter and human evolution', a biography written by Darwin's great great grandson, Randal Keynes. A lot of it was filmed at Darwin's former home in Kent - Down House and focuses, as the title of the book suggests, very much on his family life. The story of Creation begins after Darwin has returned from the Galapagos Islands, where he famously found a lot of his evidence for Origin of the Species. Creation largely deals with Darwin's life as he struggles with what to do with his findings and whether he should write and publish his theory.
One of the main themes in the film is Darwin's struggle with his own faith and that of his family and friends. His deeply religious wife Emma thinks he will go to hell for suggesting life was not created by God, separating them in the next life. He comes under strong criticism from a number of people and his life's work begins to pull apart his friends and family. One person that does not doubt him, however, is his second eldest, and clearly favourite, daughter Annie who loves to listen to his stories and theories. She has no doubt to believe her father, however this also brings trouble on her as she is scalded by the local clergy for repeating some of what her Darwin has told her. As Annie becomes sick which puts further strain on the family, and Darwin struggles with illness too, it seems no one believes what he's spent his life writing. He nearly gives up completely until an unexpected letter changes things. With the help of a few loyal friends, the world is given The Origin of the Species , one of the most famous scientific works of all time that nearly never saw the light of day.
I haven't given too much away but telling you it got published in the end, I think everyone knew that! However, I won't tell the whole twists and turns with Darwin's struggle over his work for anyone that doesn't know the full story behind the ground breaking study.
Paul Bettany really worked for his money in this film, unsurprisingly he's in it almost constantly, and his performance is outstanding. I classed him as a pretty good actor anyway, from seeing him in other roles, however this is probably the best performance I've seen form him to date. Darwin seems to be played very truthfully and whilst you sympathise with him that the world can't see his brilliance, and generally are with him throughout, he's not exactly a likeable character.
Bettany's best scenes are the ones with just him and charismatic child actor Martha West. The on screen relationship is perfect and they are totally believable as father and daughter. West plays Annie as a bright but precocious child, and as a viewer I had pretty much the same attitude toward her as Darwin. I sympathised and agreed with her but ultimately wasn't sure I liked her all that much. Whilst very different people, Bettany and West play out the similarities between the charcters subtly and very cleverly. I couldn't help thinking throughout that I recognised Matha West from something else but could not put my finger on it, however research into her career has thrown up nothing. Could anyone shed some light on this?
Jennifer Connelly who plays Darwin's wife Emma is fine as are the supporting cast, however this film totally belongs to Paul Bettany and Martha West, who I'm sure is destined for a very big career.
Whilst I was very interested to see this film, and can't deny I enjoyed it, it didn't really deliver what I was after. Darwin after all is famous as a scientist and there was very little about his actual work featured in the film. True it provided the anchor for the story, but there wasn't much detail on how he came up with or researched his theory. This is mainly due to the fact its set many years after his famous trip to Galapagos. It's a shame as this is the part I would have been most interested to hear about. I guess this is an adaptation of is biography though, not the 'making of Origin of the Species' though I did feel a little short changed that a film about Darwin completely skipped out this important part of his life.
I did find it interesting to understand a bit more about this great man and was unaware of just how much opposition he came across to air this important document. Having said that, he came across as a grumpy old man for the most part, and understandably so from the things he was up against, however I reckon more of an insight into Darwin the young man would have enriched this further, even as the risk of not staying true to 'Annie's Box.'
The best thing about Creation is by far the performance given by Bettany, see it for this alone. I would recommend seeing it if you are at all interested in Darwin but bear in mind it's just a small snippet of his life and no a comprehensive biography, perhaps a prequel is in order?!
Summary: A little insight into the private life of a great scientist