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I Origins 2014

I Origins

I Origins

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What if the eyes really are some sort of window to the soul?

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About the I Origins 💬

Writer and director Mike Cahill calls his second feature film, I ORIGINS, both a molecular-biology thriller and a love story.

''For generations, the eyes have been called the windows to the soul,'' explains Cahill. ''Think about it,'' he says. ''We each possess these magnificent artworks on the front of our face. They are all beautiful if you look very closely at them. In 1987 a professor at Cambridge University named John Daugman gave that poetic belief a basis in science when he discovered that each human being has a unique and measurable iris pattern, not unlike a fingerprint.''

From a scientific point of view, the eye is an intricate, complex machine. Says Cahill: ''It has an iris, a pupil, a retina, an optic nerve, sclera, and various muscles. Each has specialized functions and work together seamlessly.''

I ORIGINS is a personal and unconventional exploration of the mysteries of the scientific world. To Cahill, scientists are important role models for filmmakers. ''They spend their lives asking the big questions,'' he explains. ''Why are we here? What are we made of? They explore the minutest levels of matter and they look at the biggest things, like the universe. I wish I were a scientist, but I'm a filmmaker, so I make films about scientists.''

Since Daugman's early groundbreaking work at Cambridge, iris-recognition systems have been developed that can photograph the human eye and generate a unique 12-digit code to describe them. Once a far-fetched element in science fiction films like MINORITY REPORT, the technology is now a reality used in airports and passport facilities, by the military, and even by private corporations including Google.

''When you travel through Heathrow Airport, you can now go through the fast lane if you've had your eye scanned,'' says Cahill. ''In some hospitals, they scan newborn babies' eyes. It's like a fingerprint, but you don't have to touch ink. Everyone has his or her own unique iris. In the film, we've taken iris-recognition a step further, which I think is pretty compelling.''

The eye's complexity has sparked an impassioned debate between people with a scientific bent and those who rely more on religious faith. Richard Behe, a prominent biochemist, and creationist has argued that the eye is irreducibly complex. It is too specific in its structure to be explained by evolution and therefore is proof of intelligent design and the existence of God. Others, including Dawkins, have proposed that a fully functioning human eye could have evolved from light-sensitive cells through mutations over centuries.

''The character of Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is trying to demonstrate real, practical examples of each stage of the eye's evolution,'' Cahill says. ''If he can, he will have made an unprecedented discovery that he hopes will settle the argument.''

''My process is to get together with the actors and read the script through,'' Cahill continues. ''I record that and listen to it over and over to see what feels right. Then I focus in on scenes that feel false and we work on them in rehearsal.''

The director points to a crucial scene early in the film in which Ian re-encounters Sofi on a train. ''As I initially scripted it, there was all this dialogue. It became very clear that filming it on a real train was going to be very difficult because of the ambient noise. But working with the actors, I realized it was all subtext anyway. They didn't have to say anything. It was all, appropriately enough, in their eyes. We stripped the whole scene of words and let it play out silently.''

In I ORIGINS, Cahill examines the ultimate question. ''What happens after we die? That is at the heart of the film. Our main character believes in facts and data and evidence. The last thing in the world that he believes is that there is an actual soul. But he and lab partner Karen (Brit Marling) discover something that changes that.''

''The movie is both a drama and a science-fiction film, but ultimately it's about love and the infinite nature of love,'' says Cahill. ''I think audiences will take what they wish for or need from the film, but I also want the film to inspire hope and wonder. I often think that the deeper and more precisely we explore the world through science, the closer we will come to what could be understood as a spiritual narrative of life, and I hope that both sides of this are well represented in the film. I want it to inspire conversation.''

According to Cahill, I ORIGINS is just the beginning of his examination of the line between fact and faith.

''Einstein said, 'Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble,'' he says. ''The Dalai Lama has said that if science ever disproved his religious beliefs, he would change his beliefs. This film is a sort of metaphorical meeting place between Einstein and the Dalai Lama. The ending of the film opens a door, and I hope to explore the impending new paradigm in greater breadth and depth.''

I Origins Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Mike Cahill

Writing Credits

Mike Cahill


Michael Pitt

Brit Marling

Steven Yeun

Astrid Bergès-Frisbey

Archie Panjabi


Music by

Will Bates

Phil Mossman

Cinematography by

Markus Förderer

Genres: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi (Science Fiction)

Country: United States

I Origins Official Trailer

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