Drama, Biography, History

More than 150 years after its publication, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and its theory of natural selection remain the subject of much debate; the divide between those who accept Darwin's ideas as incontrovertible science and those who consider them blasphemous may be wider now than ever. Released in 2009, director Jon Amiel's Creation goes right to the heart of the matter--indeed, right to the heart of Darwin himself. As portrayed by Paul Bettany, the Darwin who has returned to England following his voyage aboard HMS Beagle is a man for whom "deeply conflicted" is a barely adequate description. Well aware his theory is "perhaps the most powerful idea ever to occur to a human mind," he is caught between the scientists who insist that he has "killed God" and the religious conservatives, including his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly), who counter that his very soul will be in peril if he finishes and publishes his book. What's more, he is haunted, sometimes literally, by the death of his favorite child, Annie (seen in frequent flashbacks), and its effect on his marriage--in fact, it is this personal angle that dominates the film. But while the toll his work has taken on his health, his faith, his family, and his very sanity is obvious, he also knows that it is far too important to ignore. Creation is not a documentary; liberties have been taken, and there are multiple sequences, including Darwin's nightmarish fever dreams, that are clearly the invention of the filmmakers. But Bettany and Connelly, who are a real-life couple, are both superb; the cinematography is gorgeous; and various scenes illustrating the notion of "survival of the fittest" in nature are riveting (there won't be a dry eye in the house when Darwin tells his dying daughter about the fate of an orangutan captured in Borneo). And while the tone of the film would seem to favor science over religion, the DVD includes numerous bonus features in which both sides have their say. This one is not to be missed. --Sam Graham
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