The old adage – that the eyes are the gateway to the soul – gets all scienced up in I Origins, a movie that asks whether Saturnine, data-driven science trumps knowledge that bypasses logic.
Directed and written by Mike Cahill, the movie’s core question – Can reality accepted on faith and without scientific “proof” be valid? – is what will haunt molecular biologist Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt). Ian’s specialty is the human eye, especially its iris patterns. He’s young but determined in his goal to demonstrate that that the eye has evolved over time, and without an assist from God.
One evening, at a Halloween party, Ian meets a facially masked woman costumed as an exotic bird. Her disguise telegraphs that Ian may now be ready to explore a more enlightened mental landscape where Uranus, paired with Mercurial knowing, can lead to enlightenment. She flees into the night, but he eventually finds her by following some strange clues, seemingly dropped into his lap, involving repeating numbers and billboards.
The mysterious creature is Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey). Her world view is decidedly spiritual – utterly pure and innocent in its child-like trust – and with zero veneration of the laws of science worshipped by her new beau. After a tragic accident keeps the couple from marrying, Ian quickly initiates a relationship with Karen (Brit Marling), his brilliant former intern and now official lab partner.
Karen, a scientist, shares Ian’s rigorous data-centric habits and seems to be a match less threatening to Ian’s belief system. And this, the approximate midpoint of the movie, is where it all gets interesting.
I Origins fast forwards seven years, and Ian and Karen now have a child. Soon after, a respectable research organization contacts Ian advising him to bring the infant to the lab for some tests. With an assist from his former lab-rat colleague-turned-entrepreneur (Steven Yuen), Ian finds himself out of his iris-biometrics comfort zone. Suddenly, his data-heavy career, associated with repeated testing and Saturnine research, can’t explain some new haunting questions.
It’s a safe bet Sofi’s approach to life will figure into Ian’s getting to the bottom of these new intellectual and spiritual issues that no number of lab mice could ever address. Helping Ian in his quest are a children’s advocate (Archie Panjabi), as well as a sage-like child, Salomina (Kashish), whose take on her character is riveting in its straightforwardness and old-soul charm.
Ian’s surname feels right here: gray matter, gray areas. In the end, the eyes have it. The soul, too.
Archetype: The Sage
Astrology Archetype: ☿ ♄ ♅ (Mercury, Saturn, Uranus)