Michael Cahill (“Another Earth”), known for making compelling science fiction movies without hype and gratuitous special effects, has done it again with the eye [no pun intended] opening “I Origins.”
The film is not as far fetched as some might think since the technology used in “Minority Report” is now a reality used in airports, passport facilities, the military and private corporations. This sci-fi love story begins with molecular biologist Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) meeting Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a mysterious masked woman, at a party and is seduced by her.
With the study of eyes being Gray’s specialty, he takes a picture of her eyes. When Sofi takes off without giving him a name or any information about herself, Gray tracks her down using iris recognition.
Fast forward to when Dr. Gray is married. He and his blond, blue-eye wife have a baby. When tests results of their baby’s eyes show an image of a Black man in the baby’s profile, Gray searches for that man and learns from his family that he is deceased. This in mind and a number of other intriguing occurrences that take place in the movie, I was prompted to ask, “Does this film suggest—,” and before completing the question Cahill intuitively finished it with, “we’re all connected?” He then went on to say, “Yeah, exactly. That’s part of it. It’s like we are all each other’s brother and sister in some way through familial ties. Obviously we’re making science fiction here but you know, I want to make it as real as possible so that maybe we can believe.”
Having played many unsavory characters on the big screen—the most grotesque in my eyes is that of Paul in “Funny Game”—and a questionable character on TV in “Boardwalk Empire,” Pitt nailed his role as Dr. Gray in “I Origins.” Pitt and co-star Berges-Frisbey were eager to discuss their portrayals with The Film Strip at the Conrad Hotel in New York City.
Did you think this material was a bit strange, albeit fascinating, considering your past work?
MICHAEL PITT: Well, I kind of made my whole career out of strange roles [laughs]. No, I met Mike in Brooklyn maybe like a year and a half ago. We just met for a general meeting and he explained six projects he had in is mind. He got to ‘I Origin’ and I said to him the idea with the eyes is a really interesting idea you should write something. In like two days he sent me a breakdown, essentially the entire structure of the film. What was amazing about it was it was very organic, our meeting. He has a great sense of humor but then I never felt he was f– king around, to put it very crudely.
ASTRID BERGES-FRISBEY: I got the project really late but felt immediately connected to the script. Those are very powerful subjects that should be explored more in movies, where you can leave the theater with so many questions. And I like that Mike uses sci fi to explain things that everybody had experienced. There are so many subjects, not just science subjects with spirituality but it talks about love.
MP: I love that about the film too. I found half the people crying who saw the film and that has never happened to me before with a film I’ve made. The other thing, having everyone talking about it, debating science and spirituality—which in most cases can be very taboo—and then having a love story included in the storyline.
The sci-fi genre has become all about bells and whistles. How many special effects can you throw in, jam into two hours, how big is the budget or the space ships and I don’t think that’s what sci-fi is at its core. I think it’s for the thinking man and women. Mike said, and I agree with it, in sci fi you’re using a metaphor to explain human nature and that’s what he did in ‘Another Earth’ with a very, very small budget. So I think the person who is really groundbreaking in the sci fi genre is Mike. He’s a scientist who’s interested in humanity; he’s a scientist that’s interested in love. That’s why he’s a special guy.
Brit Marling (Karen), in 2011 was the first female to have two films—“Another Earth” and “Sound of My Voice”—premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, joined forces with Cahill for the second time.
Steven Yeun (Kenny), currently starring in TV’s “The Walking Dead,” considers Kenny’s job a walk in the park since he does not have to contend with the undead, although living the good life has it challenges too. Marling and Yeun were paired when they talked about their roles.
What was it like playing a scientist?
BRIT MARLING: F–king fun because usually as a girl you end up doing these roles where you spend two hours in hair and makeup and you’re wearing heels that really are instruments of torture. So my character is a woman who is not interested in what people think about her. That’s an easy thing to say but I have never encountered anyone who genuinely is like that. She just rolls up in sweatpants and then onto the microscope and in that world and doesn’t care about whether somebody else takes credit for it. She is just about reveling in the ideas and that was so much fun to play.
STEVEB YEUN: I love science and read about it everyday. It’s just amazing to see the progress we’re making every single day. I just love that cross section of when will we fly too high. I love that idea that we might fly too high and expose something that we’re not supposed to know. Coming from a very faith based background, just knowing that your faith relies on the fact that you’re not supposed to know. That it’s not on you to know and for you to think otherwise is foolish. I just love those two worlds. So it’s fun.
Do you believe in reincarnation?
SY: This is where I let faith takeover. For me, that’s thing over my head. Sometimes I’m afraid at what I’ll see as stupid at it sounds, the whole allegory of the cave, you know it’s so real. It’s a thing like maybe we’re just supposed to be looking at these shadows cause once we go out and pear into the realness, we might die from realizing what reality is. That’s why I think the Matrix was so big.
BM: I’ve never heard anyone say this before the way you’re saying it, Steven. Like if we could know, if we had the ability, the sense of perception, the intelligence to know, could we withstand the overwhelmingness of the truth? Or would it just crush—
SY: Right, and that’s something that’s, I might be wrong, but was taught growing up in my faith which, that you don’t want to face God ‘cause if you face God, you’re—
SY: Yeah, and that part, maybe, it goes back to the whole fruit on the tree. It’s like I want the knowledge that God has. We can’t handle that. Like we’re made in his image but we’re not God and those trying to make themselves out to be like God always gets destroyed.
“I Origins” also stars Archie Panjabi, who received the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for “The Good Wife,” Venida Evans, Charles W. Gray and Kashish.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]