Jon Amiel’s Creation tells of the writings of Charles Darwin – the man who made the theory of, evolution mainstream. What is at the heart of the film however, is the evolution of the heart - human love.
What the film gives us is the story of the man, rather than the details of his theories. We see his conflict and that draws us into the characters and the love that exists between them.
In a deft but understated way Amiel parallels the personal difficulties Darwin had in writing his groundbreaking Origin of the Species with the significance of the subject matter itself. The film does not concentrate either on the broader overtones of religion versus science or on the political struggle from Darwin’s writings. Instead we see the struggle within the man as he tries to cope not only with the guilt he feels over his diminishing belief in religion but also with the loss of his daughter. His love for his wife prevents him from truly embracing his work since, as a devout Christian, she confronts him with her fears that he will lose is immortal soul if he completes his work.
Darwin’s theories deal with natural selection, the way stronger variations in nature survive, while weaker ones perish. His internal conflict and guilt show his own weakness. This weakness eats away at his health and relationships with his wife and children. In order to survive he must resolve and come to terms with the weakness that would kill him.
The film takes us non-sequentially through several years of Darwin’s life. The flashbacks work marvelously and in time we watch as the various elements piece together in a way that is quite brilliant. The director, Jon Amiel, trusts the audience to see the subtleties of what the film can but does not say about religion without looking at science. We see this through the eyes of the characters most clearly. We see the religious figures who advise Darwin that it is all God’s creation. And we see some of Darwin’s counterparts in the science community who want the destruction of religion almost at all costs.
What the films says is as brilliant as what it doesn’t say. It leaves the audience to infer and apply their own views of religion and science and how the two may be woven together each as one part of the whole truth of all that we know. The film reflects this when, towards the end of the film, we see the characters resolve their own internal conflicts.
With sumptuous visuals and a score that is hauntingly beautiful, the film so easily could have been didactic, controversial or polemic. Instead, we have a film about a man who struggles to complete writings that would change the world and, in the midst of those struggles, is deeply and profoundly changed by what he learned about himself.