Darwin lives on with cinematic reflections on life from death

From left: Dr Don Cameron (BRLSI Philosophy Convenor) and Martin Sturge with film-maker Olivier Pagani.
Tuesday January 5th 2010: Despite having officially ended on December 11th with Prof Steve Jones’ lecture Is Evolution Over?, the BRLSI’s Darwin and Beyond programme still had a couple of events left, both from the Philosophy Group. Tonight’s was a showing of Bachelard Residence, Darwinian Reverie, a film by French film-maker Olivier Pagani, who braved the weather and the Channel Tunnel (not a happy combination in recent weeks) to come from Lille in northern France for the occasion.
The film was inspired by the work of Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), a French Philosopher who focussed on the unusual combination of poetry and science, influencing (among others) Foucault and Derrida in the process. Being of a philosophical nature, it eschewed a hard-driven plot in favour of reflective scenes showing Pagani himself visiting his childhood home, and the campus of his university, trying to resolve the morbid fear of death that had gripped him as a young man. Through his own reflections, and conversations with others, he comes to see that death is, in fact, the driving force of evolution, “the price paid by life to go from simplicity to complexity”.
In a typically philosophical Q&A session afterwards, M Pagani revealed that making the film had given him a “Darwinian Revolution”, leaving him less naive, poetically enriched and nostalgic for the 99% of species which have perished since life began. The audience, meanwhile, were full of praise for the film, describing it as “multi-layered” and “beautifully fllmed”.
The showing was organised by Darwin and Beyond Programme Manager Martin Sturge, who also acted as translator for the evening. If you’d like to see Bachelard Residence, Darwinian Reverie, you may soon have a chance, as Olivier Pagani hopes to make it available on the Internet in March. For details and the web address, subscribe to Philosophy Convenor Don Cameron’s monthly email newsletter here.
The very last Darwin and Beyond event, meanwhile, will be on Tuesday May 4th, when Dr Tim Lewens of Cambridge University will speak on Darwin and Philosophy, postponed from September last year.