Darwin, by Peter Greenaway, 1992



“Darwin has given man such a short communicable history and such a long uncommunicable prologue that looking back is no comfort. Looking forward is no comfort either, because evolution appears so directionless, and so apparently purposeless. Darwin has finally put man irredeemably out on his own… Darwin has given us a freedom that no social or religious programme has ever given us, for, if man is on his own, then all the checks we relied on to excuse or explain our own shortcomings and mediocrities have been removed. We are, at least, now free for what we want to be.” – Tableau 17

This film follows the life and times of Sir Charles Darwin via a series of 18 tableaux. There are many actors, but they do not speak any dialogue. The only voice we hear is a narrator describing to us. Each of the tableaux is perfectly staged as one long take. It follows all the major stages of Darwin’s life, from his journey around the world, his marriage, the publication of The Origin of Species, to his burial at Westminster Abbey.