Michael Pitt and Astrid Berges-Frisbey are in love in "I Origins." Credit: Fox Searchlight
OK, so you’ve seen “I Origins” or you don’t mind it being ruined. If not, turn back to the review now.
What happens is Ian and Karen prove that the eye evolved naturally, which is pretty incredible (and hopefully not far off in the real world). Around this time Sofi dies in a horrific (and slightly quirky) tragedy, leaving Ian devastated. But years later he discovers, using cutting edge eye scanning technology that really exists (if not to the degree of accuracy as in the film), that she may have been reincarnated in a young Indian girl. In fact, reincarnation appears to be real and there appears to be something like a soul.
But “I Origins” stops before it says something like, “And therefore that proves that there is a God.” It doesn’t believe this. This discovery is discovered by scientists, who actively and excitedly pursue it, learning — in a sequence put for no good reason after the credits — that such historical figures as Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, Gandhi and others have reincarnated in other people.
This is all well and good. But the arc for Ian goes a bit differently. He tests this young Indian girl for knowledge only Sofi would know. She gets an average score, meaning there is no apparent proof that the girl is a kind of rebooted Sofi. And yet in the final moments before the end credits, she reacts horrifically to an elevator. Sofi in fact died in a freak elevator accident. Ian grabs her and runs with her out of the buildings, having flip-flopped to believing this proves reincarnation is real and who knows what else?
It can still be argued, and very robustly, that this remains scientific — that reincarnation is not part of some supreme being’s plan but just part of nature. And that’s a great, refreshing way to attack this idea. But Ian’s arc tips us to believe in something more, and will certainly be interpreted that way by people who don’t tend to go for scientific reasoning. Indeed, those people will likely come away from “I Origins” thinking that there’s something vaguely “spiritual,” if not outright religious, about this movie that is otherwise very passionate about the scientific method. It could have easily expressed wonder at the universe by not having this arc — because it’s a terrible cliche that if you can only experience awe at the universe if you don’t embrace the scientific method. "I Origins" knows this but it could express it better.