Does Mike Cahill to feel seen? The 41-year-old writer-director science fiction has now made three films, each more publicized than the last, on ways of seeing. It is literally literally in the second of these efforts, I Origins, which is also, not unrelatedly, the worst title. Released in 2014, it is about vision scientists researching the origin of the human eye – a look, a play on words – which, if you didn’t know, is “the window”, like literally says a character, “to the soul”. They find it in the genes of a blind worm, but not before Karen, played by Brit Marling, warns her lab partner that she at least has no interest in being famous, in being seen: “Recognition me. makes you nauseous, ”she says.
Recognition, for Cahill, meant two things: more money and less Marling. She both starred and co-wrote Cahill’s first science fiction, Another land, which came out in 2011 and would have been made for a measly 100 thousand. I Origins cost 10 times as much, and Marling only acted on it. In Cahill’s latest film, Congratulated, budget unknown but with Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek and now available on Amazon Prime, it is nowhere to be found. (In recent years, you may have seen Marling on the Netflix show The OA, her baby.) Not to say that she is his inspiration, but the silver / Marling compromise seems to have clouded Cahill’s cinematic vision.
Another land was the best genre of low-cost science fiction, conceptual but content. Of the Cahill trilogy, it is also, not unrelated, the best title. All science fiction is metaphoric made literal, but most of the time, it is overkill. (Or it explodes, in space, in the last act.) Here, the scale is human. One evening, Marling’s character, Rhonda, gets drunk at a college party and decides to drive home. Along the way, something suddenly appears in the sky. It is a planet, apparently identical to ours. Looking up at her, she slams into another car, extinguishing two lives in an instant. Hence the question posed by the title: is there another world in which this has not happened? One in which Rhonda didn’t just ruin her life? The film hints at a response but does not engage, coming out instead with a surprising hiccup of possibility.
This would become Cahill’s signature – ambiguity as a response to his oversized ambitions. He’s desperately engaged, like all sci-fi creators, to investigating the wonders and woes of existence, who’s and huhs and why. For this he cannot be blamed. Most mainstream theaters don’t ask half the hard questions. But Another land worked because the ambiguity was not absolute. The viewer detects, thanks to the gentle guiding hands of Cahill and Marling, a way to see a possible solution. same I Origins, despite its visual literals and condescending slowdown, ending with a burst of sunshine, manages to enrich and complicate the old cliché of seeing to believe. Then Cahill did Congratulated, that no amount of view will make you believe.
Wilson plays Greg, a person without an office job who spends his days dreaming of other lands, other lives. Next, a witch named Isabel (Hayek, unrestrained) shows up, claiming to have powers over reality. Which isn’t really the reality, she tells him, but a computer simulation, and Greg can see it for himself, if he just takes those glittering crystal pills. In other words, you’ve been here before. You Greg, but also you the spectator, who remembers it since The matrix. Look, the Wachowskis don’t have a monopoly on simulation theory. Thirteenth floor, existence, the new documentary A glitch in the matrix“There is plenty of room in the virtual sandbox. But in a red pill / blue pill world, Cahill’s drug-mediated reality reads like a second-rate simulation of reality.