Wednesday, February 3, 2010
The film revolves around Darwin's life with his wife and four children. Jennifer Connelly is excellent as his extremely devout and loving wife. A revealing scene at the beginning when she leads the dinner table in prayer and Charles fails to say "Amen" is foreshadowing of what will follow and of the stark differences between the two. She is convinced that he will be eternally damned and bring misfortune to their family by rejecting God.
Darwin is torn between his strong love for his wife, her faith and his even stronger reason. There are beautiful moments of him observing animals, dissecting their behaviors and the sequences that make up their lives, explaining phenomenons of selection to his children, the first born, Annie, having a very morbid curiosity. We see him interacting with England's first orangutan, Jenny, playing with it as if it were a child, deciphering her every look and action.
Annie, the eldest child, later dies and Charles becomes haunted by her death, having been closest to her. In my opinion this part was too long, bizarre and drawn out. I did not like the trippy scenes where he seems to be losing his mind and is pursued by the ghost of his daughter, shouting and ranting. Although Charles thinks that his wife blames him for her fatal sickness, she very poetically says: "The truth is, if I knew then what I know now, I would marry you tomorrow". Their bond is solid and unbreakable despite tremendous differences of belief.
When Charles finishes his manuscript he hands his wife the final copy, telling her she can burn it if she does not agree. She stays up reading it nights on end and finally presents him with a package, the book ready to be sent to its publisher. In the end, reason and perhaps love as well, triumph, as he makes an accomplice out of his staunchest adversary.
It is fascinating that Darwin received a full Christian burial at Westminster Abbey, proof that his ground-breaking ideas were seen as controversial of course, but were already then recognized as vital knowledge for the advancement of the human race.
The movie definitely draws heavily on Darwin's family life, its joys and its troubles. I happened to like this aspect but Fabio said it was like watching a documentary on, I quote, "Hitler's passion for ping-pong". This is true in some respects and I cannot disagree with his desire to have learned more about Charles Darwin's theories from this film than we do. It remains nevertheless a well executed and flawlessy acted period drama.
My rating: 7
Total score: 14