Paul Bettany & Jennifer Connelly
Han Way films
The film Creation currently showing in British cinemas will catch the attention of thoughtful people. Its ‘creation’ is not that of Genesis 1, but the creation of the famous book published 150 years ago this November.
The film, based on Annie’s Box by Randal Keynes, traces the writing of On the origin of species by Charles Darwin from its final year of gestation up to the dispatch of a completed manuscript to the publisher.
Partly using flashbacks to build up the biographical picture, Darwin is portrayed as an attractive though flawed individual. The film particularly focuses on his inner struggles over Origin’s publication.
Various factors delay and then spur the manuscript’s progress. While urged to publish by friends like Hooker and Huxley, his wife Emma’s approval is much more hard won.
Then there is the letter from Alfred Wallace outlining the same theory, Darwin’s apparently psychosomatic illness and his fear of unleashing an idea into society that could ‘destroy’ even God himself. Interwoven with it all is his relationship with Annie, the favourite daughter whose early death affects him so profoundly.
A film about a man writing a book is potentially dull, but those involved in Creation are seasoned professionals like film director Jon Amiel. The combination of skilful writing, fine acting – especially from lead actors, husband and wife team Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly – beautiful sets, good music and high production standards make this a powerful production indeed.
There are anachronisms, and doubtful dramatic devices and even straight errors of fact, but a production like this is intended to create an impression rather than get every detail right.
No, the film should not be criticised for those faults, but for something far more fundamental – its whole take on evolution.
The film’s subliminal message is: yes, there are extremists in the scientific world, among evolutionists too (Thomas Huxley is portrayed as a most unattractive character). But there are also extremists among religionists. Rev. Innes, the vicar of Downe, makes Annie kneel in rock salt scarring her knees as a penance for believing dinosaurs existed! Eventually, he will not even speak to Darwin.
But most of us – or so the film implies – are there in the middle trying not to be unreasonable. In this category, on the one hand, is Darwin himself, along with his close friend Joseph D. Hooker. They have no desire to cause trouble and simply want to know the truth. They are fearful of public reaction, yet capable of quiet courage.
On the other, there are gentle, pious people like Emma Darwin, who respect their minister and read Pilgrim’s progress to their children. These (or us, as the film seems to quietly preach) sometimes feel estranged from cutting-edge scientists and their strange ideas, but if we will only consider the situation carefully and trust them we will soon realise they are right. Like Emma who, on reading the Origin manuscript through, finally unbends to give Charles her blessing, we will see the light and stop all the carping.
But the trouble with all of that is that it is woefully inaccurate and dreadfully untrue. Even though Darwin had positive qualities, his theory of evolution was then and remains now both scientifically wrong and essentially anti-God.
What the late Henry Morris described in his book on the history of evolutionary theories as The long war against God continues to this day; this film is the latest salvo in that war. We need to point this out to the naive and reject the caricatures that underlie productions like this.