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Creation

Had a lovely lunch date with the spouse on Tuesday to see Creation, the latest film about Charles Darwin's life while working on Origin of Species. I'd known, from reading the introduction to The Tangled Bank over the weekend, that it had nearly never reached the United States over distribution difficulties. Not that showing in the US has apparently helped it much. It was released in January 22, and to date, is only playing at the Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco. We saw it in a room barely big enough to fit twenty people. When scanner_darkly and I watched it, on a Tuesday afternoon matinee showing, the only other people there were a couple of elderly ladies in the back, and another elderly gentleman in the corner.

I urge you to watch this movie. No, I beseech you to watch it, whether you are staunchly atheist, or of any one of the religions or philosophies that respects and believes in a cycle of life larger than we are, if you believe that we hold our fates in our hands, and that we are connected to everyone else by every action we make. If it's showing where you are, and you are able to, this is not a movie that deserves the throwing under a bus it has received.

Never has a movie more clearly, more eloquently, and more responsibly described my own faith as this. In spite of its apparent subject, Creation is not a treatise on evolutionary theory. It is, however, about Charles Darwin, one of the major figures behind that theory, and how he wrestled with the ideas he helped forge before their publication, at great personal cost. For the first time, a movie has put a face, and more importantly, an emotion, to what it means to accept that evolution is real. It has done this by framing Charles Darwin's struggles, with his family, his marriage, his church and society in his time, in the writing of Origin of Species. It puts an emotion to the great enormity of accepting that one's fate is in one's hands, whether that is our choice of mate, the choices we make while raising our children or even how we choose to think, all the while clearly showing that these choices have repercussions, not just to the individual, but to the people around us. The ultimate cost of Charles Darwin's belief in evolutionary theory was a loss of his faith in a benevolent God, one who might have once shielded him from the awfulness of life's troubles. What he gained from this break was a stronger belief, one grounded in scientific inquiry and a faith in our own irrespressible adaptibility. I'm not sure this was quite meant to be a movie revolving around the cult of Darwin, but if a cult of Darwin could be formed from a figure so flawed and thoughtfully and internally combative, it may not be such a terrible thing.

Creation is, down to the last detail, a very Afi movie. There's a ghost, morbid Victorian undertakings, the gloomy British countryside, glowering ancient manors, perfectly coiffed period costumes, quaint English accents, a haunting of finches, sweeping cinematography, enchanting piano music, religious persecution, oodles of dying and ennui, evolutionary theory -- and plentiful quotes from Origin of Species, including a few of the favourites I've included while writing Finches, such as this:

"As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications."

That last quote has sat in a nearly empty page for five years, waiting for me to finish the final chapter of my novella. I just simply cannot recommend this movie enough.