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Peter T Chattaway

Creation

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Link to the thread on Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which starred Bettany as a seafaring 19th-century naturalist who says God and evolution ARE compatible, and links to the threads on the first, second and third Narnia films, which star Charles Darwin's great-great-great-grandson Skandar Keynes as Edmund Pevensie.

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Thomas develops Darwin project

Producer Jeremy Thomas is planning a movie about Charles Darwin, to be written by John Collee and directed by Jon Amiel.

The project is based on "Annie's Box," a biog of Darwin by Randall Keynes, the great-great grandson of the Victorian scientist. . . .

The "Annie" of the title is Darwin's first daughter, whose death aged 10 left him grief-stricken. With his scientific discoveries leading him toward agnosticism, he was unable to find consolation in belief in an afterlife, but coped with his loss by plunging into his work. . . .

Variety, February 27, 2007

Bettany, Connelly to star in Darwin pic

Real-life husband and wife Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly have signed on to play a married couple in "Creation," Jon Amiel's project about the life of Charles Darwin.

Bettany will play the British father of evolutionary theory, and Connelly will play his wife, Emma, in the big-screen take on the life of the controversial "On the Origin of Species" author. . . .

Amiel's film portrays Darwin as a man torn between his love for his deeply religious wife and his own growing belief in a world where God has no place. The scientist finds himself caught in a struggle between faith and reason, love and truth.

Collee's script is based on Randal Keynes' book "Annie's Box," about the life of Darwin, his great great grandfather. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, September 4, 2008

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OK... Leaving out any opinions about the film or subject matter, I love the title of a film about Charles Darwin being called "Creation."

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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Hmmm, interesting. It seems from that that the emphasis really will be on the Darwin's marriage and not church bashing.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: Hmmm, interesting. It seems from that that the emphasis really will be on the Darwin's marriage and not church bashing.

Yeah, I certainly hope so. I like how the character who makes the most blatantly atheistic statement comes across as kind of smug and unconcerned about Darwin's feelings. And then there's this interesting description from the Toronto film-festival press release:

Part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part heart-wrenching love story Creation is the story of Charles Darwin. His great, still controversial, book The Origin of Species depicts nature as a battleground. In Creation the battleground is a man's heart. Torn between his love for his deeply religious wife and his own growing belief in a world where God has no place, Darwin finds himself caught in a struggle between faith and reason, love and truth.

The Darwin we meet in Creation is a young, vibrant father, husband and friend whose mental and physical health gradually buckles under the weight of guilt and grief for a lost child. Ultimately it is the ghost of Annie, his adored 10-year-old daughter, who leads him out of darkness and helps him reconnect with his wife and family. Only then is he able to write the book that changed the world.

If, as one of the original stories linked above says, Darwin was wracked with grief over his inability to find consolation in a belief in the afterlife, then it is interesting that the film might present "the ghost of Annie" as the one who "leads him out of darkness and helps him reconnect with his wife and family" en route to writing his book.

And hey, if Mel Gibson's Icon Films is distributing this film, how atheist could it be? :)

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And yet ANOTHER dramatization of this period in Darwin's life -- this one starring the guy who played Jesus in The Gospel of John!

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PBS airs 'Darwin's' story

PBS will air the first scripted feature film produced by National Geographic TV, "Darwin's Darkest Hour," Oct. 6 on "Nova."

Henry Ian Cusick ("Lost") stars alongside Frances O'Connor ("Mansfield Park") in the film, which depicts professional and personal traumas evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin faced in 1858, the year before his theory of natural selection was published in "On the Origin of Species."

Variety, July 23

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I really ought to have posted on this before, but I haven't had time to drop into A&F for a while. In Damaris we're producing a lot of resources for churches based on the film - service outline, small group material, outreach events, videos. It's tricky, as you might imagine, as there's a wide spread of opinion on the origins question. Thankfully it's not as polarised in the UK as in the USA, but there are churches that are already accusing us of promoting Darwinism. We're really not - we're saying that Christians have a range of views on the subject, but we can engage with the issues without attacking each other. They're all at www.damaris.org/creationmovie. What we need now is for churches to use them.

I think Creation (premieres at TIFF this evening) is a lovely film. It's not a conventional biopic, but imagines the kind of turmoil in Darwin's mind through the device of imagined conversations with his dead daughter, and lots of flashbacks to times before she died. The death of Annie in 1851 was a defining moment in his life and key to his loss of faith. There are three central intertwining strands: the long gestation of On the Origin of Species, the tension with his wife who was a committed Christian, and the grief over Annie's death. Paul Bettany and wife Jennifer Connelly are brilliant as Mr and Mrs Darwin. Some fine supporting roles too.

The film does take some artistic liberties with the history in order to tell the story, but that's the nature of telling stories in 2-hour films. There is no evidence, for example, that Darwin imagined (or hallucinated) conversations with Annie, but it's a great device for bringing some of his thinking out into the open. Thomas Huxley did not try to persuade Darwin to publish his ideas; rather he was uncertain about them until after reading Origin (and possibly even then). But it seems to me that everything that is done is effective in bringing the story to life, and opening up other dimensions beyond the science. If you're interested in these aspects, have a look at the Culturewatch.tv video on the page mentioned above, and the 'Digging Deeper into Darwin' videos when they're published (tomorrow I think) with Nick Spencer (author of Darwin and God) talking about the historical reality.

My various blogged bits are at www.tonywatkins.co.uk/tag/charles-darwin/, for what they're worth.

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NBooth wrote:

: Looks like it's having difficulties getting to the U.S.

Last week, Variety reported that a brand-new (it was only two weeks old at the time) company called D Films had bought distribution rights for Canada. I have no idea what this portends for the film's release-ability here, but it does seem to me that it's rare for a film to get a Canadian distributor without any sort of American release in place; most American distributors consider Canada to be part of their "domestic" market. (This sort of thing HAS happened before, but the only example I can think of is how Shooting Dogs, a British film about the Rwandan genocide, was released in Canada a year before it was released in the States -- and when it was released in the States, it was re-named Beyond the Gates. Oh, and Silent Light -- a Mexican film featuring a Canadian writer in one of the key roles -- also got Canadian distribution before it played in the States. And in both cases, the films were available on DVD in Canada -- and were thus available as Region 1 DVDs -- by the time the films arrived in theatres Stateside. Anyway, if that's the template being followed here, then it looks like Creation might not get all that much exposure.)

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It opens so soon here that I can imagine that there is a move to wait how it does in the UK and then use that to promote it in the US. Certainly the filmmakers will want US distribution before the year is out.

Matt

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I'm not so sure. This was in the Telegraph last week:

Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin's "struggle between faith and reason" as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.

Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

More on Telegraph.co.uk

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But that 39% is a LOT of people. The material is surely less offensive than Last Temptation and they found someone to release that (admittedly 20 years ago). If it does well in the UK box office it might have a chance.

That said, I wonder if the film will be too Christian for non-Christians, and too secular for most US Christians.

Matt

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Newmarket picks up Jon Amiel's 'Creation'

NEW YORK -- Indie distributor Newmarket is back on the acquisitions scene, picking up U.S. rights to Toronto International Film Festival opener "Creation."

Chris Ball's and Robert Fyvolent's company has sealed the deal for Jon Amiel's pic about the life of Charles Darwin, and will aim for a December release. . . .

The movie was generally well-received when it opened Toronto two weeks ago, though given its period aspects, found a slightly tougher acquisitions market.

Newmarket has a strong record as an upstart distributor, releasing such breakouts as "Memento" and "The Passion of the Christ." It has been quiet in recent years, but principals are aiming for a resurgence with the "Creation" buy.

Hollywood Reporter, September 24

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Note how this story blames the film's difficulties on the fact that it is a "period" piece, and not because it might be controversial. I always found the "controversial" explanation kind of unconvincing, given how many controversial films do get released. Though I could certainly believe that, in a country where fewer people accept Darwin's theory, it might be difficult to find an audience that would be INTERESTED in paying to see a movie about Darwin.

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Just got the press release: this film opens across Canada on January 22. Is it safe to assume that the American distributor plans to take it wide around the same time?

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The new(ish) North American trailer, on the left -- and since the European trailer embedded several posts ago is no longer active, here is another copy of it on the right, for comparison's purposes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzxPbUNTK5M http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BREvUKpZTeU

It seems to me that the European trailer plays up the social aspects surrounding the development of Darwin's theory -- the way it gave him friends and enemies and, most of all, the way it introduced tension into his marriage. But the North American trailer, interestingly, seems to play up the tension between Darwin and God himself.

Then again, the European trailer plays up the notion that "all of nature is a battlefield", whereas the North American trailer emphasizes the "grandeur" of evolution.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Saw it.

The first hour gets into some challenging stuff, and does so with interesting visuals etc. (One sequence in particular is like a cross between Lars von Trier's Antichrist and David Lynch's Blue Velvet. And I was patting myself on the back for thinking, "Hey, I bet this is a subtle, subversive reference to the biblical passage about the sparrow falling...", but then, about half an hour later, the creationist minister makes an ostensibly soothing comment about God seeing the sparrow fall. So the biblically illiterate but cinematically astute viewer should still be able to make the basic connection.)

But the second hour kind of loses track of these themes, as the subplot about the ghost of Darwin's daughter becomes more and more prominent. I told a colleague afterwards that the dead daughter could have worked very well as a metaphor for focusing and concentrating some of the deeper, cosmic themes at work here, but in the end she seems to supplant them all. And the Darwins' grief over the prevalence of so much wasteful death throughout the universe ultimately boils down to a couple of cliched, domesticized banalities (particularly in the scene that includes the line that begins with "Knowing what I know now...").

More later, perhaps, when more North Americans have had a chance to see the film. But what do the Brits (and the TIFF attendees) here have to say?

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Making Darwin the Legend a Man Again

Mr. Amiel, a London native whose career went international after he directed the BBC mini-series “The Singing Detective,” and Mr. Collee, a Scot who has been a doctor and a novelist as well as a screenwriter, both call themselves atheists. But Mr. Amiel argued that in casting Mr. Northam, “an extremely handsome, powerful and charismatic actor,” as the clergyman, he “deliberately tried to give religion and the church its due weight and gravitas.”

He continued, “Huxley, who far more shares my views on the world, we depicted more in the way that Darwin would have seen him, as irksome, pugnacious and in some ways dangerous.”

New York Times, January 14

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It's definitely conflicted in where it wants to put its attention. Although it uses the framework of Darwin finishing Origin, any time a scene focuses closely on that aspect, it seems to lose some spark. Maybe it's because we know that he will succeed and get it published, and Keynes/Collee unfortunately paint themselves into a corner by trying to shoehorn relational closure into his professional closure.

Bettany is excellent. It takes maybe 15 minutes, but he makes Darwin pop out beyond the expectedly polished period visuals. Amiel and the writers don't just pay lip service to his crisis of faith. A lot of the time it seems to hang there, baggage that they don't know quite what to do with, but what's there and how they present it is compelling and beyond what you'd usually find in a January release. And considering the sensitivity towards religious faith that Amiel shows, seeing this makes me wish he had directed Amazing Grace (which would be Creation's closest cousin, stylistically and tonally, and not just for the presence of Jones and Benedict Cumberbatch in about the same size roles that they had in Grace). In the religion vs. science area, caricature is mostly avoided (though Toby Jones' moment as a 19th century Dawkins seems like a bone thrown to Christian viewers).

There is some arresting imagery involving water treatments that could be read both religiously and atheistically. The tone of the film seems subtly pro-atheist (at least if it is in accordance with "the Truth", as Darwin repeatedly extols), but these scenes aren't coloured in any particular way, and I'm really glad Amiel included them.

Connelly is always watchable, and she does good work here. Unfortunately, she doesn't get to be much more than the unintentional Antagonist.

Overall, I'm sad to say, it doesn't seem to register as something special. The middle section has some powerful and delicately handled scenes that won't fade quickly (pertaining to his faith, grief, and marriage. And how often do we get a mainstream release where two people work through their differences to save their marriage? It's refreshing). But in the end, it takes all of these interesting things and this interesting man, and just sort of says "meh." It's not a battle between God and Darwin, it's a battle between history and drama, and for once, history wins. Not that they should have changed the facts, but that they didn't use them to draw the whole into something truly affecting and compelling. I feel like I spent two hours getting to know Darwin and his struggles, but in the end it's not about shaping him as a person, it's about how he got his mojo back. Maybe this fell through for me because I don't hold Origin up as a "good" work, one that I desperately want to see published as I watch Darwin write it, and the film definitely assumes that the audience automatically holds Origin in high esteem. It's just that the emotional core of the film is what makes it work for most of its running time, and when that area is done with, it becomes Darwin (Back) In Love. He finishes his masterpiece, the end titles tell the rest of the story, and everything is win-win-win. It coasts to the finish line, and that's unfortunate.

Spoilery things:

Emma Darwin's decision to "allow" Origin to be published brings up so many questions about why she would ignore or quiet her principles to make that decision, with absolutely nothing to address it. I had a big "clang" moment while watching that scene.

and,

Interesting how Charles, the character whom post-modern audiences are supposed to identify with because of his disposition towards religion (and the effect that his work has had in dismantling religious beliefs), is so devoted to some sort of absolute truth, rebuking his wife when she (the rock solid, absolute-truth Bible believer) defends the parson's difference of opinion by saying "that's the truth as he sees it."

Edited by N.W. Douglas

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I don't really have time to say much about this now - it's meant to be a flying visit back to A&F to unearth some information - but I will leave a quick post just to say that the Damaris resources on the film are still available from www.damaris.org/creationmovie. I highly recommend the videos featuring Nick Spencer, author of the extremely thoroughly researched Darwin and God. The three scientists are also very interesting - one is an atheist, one an evolutionary creationist and one a young earth creationist. We were delighted that Icon Film Distributors included some of these on the UK DVD.

Great, thoughtful post by NW Douglas, by the way.

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