Monday, June 9, 2008

Darwin Discovered

Author(s): Maia (CA)
Darwin Discovered

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Written by Matt Greenhalgh
Edited by Tim Squyres
Cinematography by Eric Gautier
Production Design by Patrice Vermette
Makeup by John E. Jackson
Costume Design by Milena Canonero
Original Score by Elliot Goldenthal
Original Song “The Power of Place” written by Elliot Goldenthal
And performed by Ecuador’s National Academy of Music

Main Cast

Anthony Hopkins as Charles Darwin
Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Darwin – Age 35
Pete Postlethwaite as Captain Robert FitzRoy
Jeremy Northam as John Stevens Henslow
Bill Nighy as Julian Ferguson
Hugh Dancy as Thomas Malthus
Georgie Henley as Annie Darwin
And Penelope Wilton as Emma Darwin

Tagline: “A man of evolution, a life of revolution”


1836, The Galapagos Islands (Sunrise)
Five years had passed since the morning Charles Robert Darwin left London and embarked on the second voyage of the prestigious HSM Beagle:

It had only been two months since the sudden passing of his daughter Annie but his wife Emma already knew he had changed forever. It is well-known the young naturalist lost his faith after Annie’s death but it is also true his grief only made him even more curious and adventurous. Intrigued, driven by his new found skepticism, Darwin took the advice of his old friend and mentor, John Stevens Henslow; and met with Robert FitzRoy, the captain of The Beagle. Friendship was born almost immediately; some even say they became like father and son during their five-year journey. Truth is, both men shared a deep passion for the secrets of nature and both were used to be misunderstood.

But the journey had now come to an end; this was the last sunrise Darwin would see in the mysterious, spellbinding Galapagos. There would be no more encounters with its magical creatures and they would be no longer called monsters or the fantasies of drunken sailors. They were real, as real as the last image he’d see as he walked back to the Beagle that last morning: there was his Annie, so fragile and so vivid. It would be a memory that would haunt him forever…

Twenty five years later, the young explorer had become a celebrated yet controversial author; he had evolved just like his mythic creatures from Galapagos. He was now an old, bald man with a bushy beard but he was also a wise man, one who could share his stories with the many young pupils (like that vigorous Thomas Malthus) who would listen to them.

But not everyone was so impressed with Darwin’s theories. Since his book The Origin of the Species had stirred controversy a few years ago; Charles and Emma had grown apart. She, being a devoted christian, couldn’t live knowing her church was accusing him of heresy. Still, she stood by his side as any wife back then would, but the incessant attacks from influential politicians like Julian Ferguson were slowly breaking her apart.

A decade of equal fame and mockery later, Charles Robert Darwin knew the end was close. It was now when his usual dream had become a lively, recurrent fantasy. He could see Annie and Galapagos everywhere; even awake while he walked by the mighty Thames. It was the one vision in his mind that had never changed; the one he didn’t want it to evolve…

What the press would say:

Exhibiting a unique richness of sensory detail and poetic narrative, Annaud’s “Darwin Discovered” is among the most inspiring and satisfying biopics in recent years. Combining the fantastic elements of the magic realism and a stunning visual style that is able to captivate the viewer without being a distraction, the French director has found the most graceful style to represent the world as seen by an avant-garde personality like Charles Darwin.

During the film’s early minutes, Annaud and his crew introduce us to their vision, or shall we say Darwin’s vision of the undiscovered Galapagos. A magic territory where magnificent creatures, from giant reptiles to colorful birds; come to life in beautiful, surreal sequences. Here in this eye-catching world, Matthew Macfadyen steals our attention as soon as the pic begins; the Pride & Prejudice actor plays the young Darwin as a man suddenly becoming a boy playing explorer, thrilled by the unknown world around him. His expressive performance is the vehicle for Galapagos to come to life but most importantly, for us to understand the real greatness of Darwin’s discovery on nature and evolution.

Once the film takes a twenty-five year leap, it’s only fitting to have a screen legend like Anthony Hopkins playing an icon like Darwin. Apart from the effective casting work, Hopkins is able to deliver a majestic performance filled with courage, depth and empathy but also packed with a distinguishable dignity that makes us connect with the unique man he is playing. Hopkins embodies his character with grand determination and the result is a reflective, magnetic portrayal of a man born ahead of his time.

The rest of the cast doesn’t disappoint: West End veteran Penelope Wilton portrays Darwin’s tormented wife with poise and bravado; Oscar nominee Pete Postlethwaite is captivating on the film’s early minutes as the illustrious captain Robert FitzRoy and although she is mostly seen, not heard; Narnia’s Georgie Henley gets her chance to shine during that climatic sequence when Galapagos emerges out of the Thames and her character and Hopkins’ make their heartbreaking farewell.

“Darwin Discovered” is indeed a touching portrayal of a man who lived his life as a genuine revolution and who never settled to live it as a simple process of evolution.

Please consider “Darwin Discovered” during the upcoming awards season in the following categories:

Best Picture (Drama)
Best Director (Annaud)
Best Actor (Hopkins)
Best Supporting Actor (Macfadyen)
Best Supporting Actress (Wilton)
Best Supporting Actor (Postlethwaite)
Best Supporting Actress (Henley)
Best Adapted Screenplay

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