Here’s a thorny one for you: In an age of ever-expanding Artificial Intelligence, how is automation in technology affecting our ability to think for ourselves? That’s the question – or one of them at least – at the center of this absorbing documentary EVOLUTION: THE GENIUS EQUALTION (2020) by Spanish filmmaker Paulina Amador. And it is one that, as you might have guessed, does not have an easy answer.
Enlivened with eye-popping CG graphics and serious-sounding narration from, of all people, Linda Evans, Amador’s labyrinthine film is a deep dive into the theoretical parameters of the human brain and – if I’ve got this right – whether genius is an inscrutable gift enjoyed by a few, or whether the potential for it exists in all of us. And if so, how we unlock its secrets and tap into that potential. ‘What of genius is a state of mind that anyone can access?” is how Amador puts it, posing another question-within-a-question.
In pursuit of enlightenment, Amador enlists contributions from a vast array of fine minds, ranging from the rigorously scientific to the fringes of new-age spiritualism, taking in art, history, literature and much else along the way. Names such as Michio Kaku, Norman Doidge, David Gelernter, Poppy Crum, Feryal Ozel, Chiara Marletto, and Ramtha won’t trip off the tongue of most viewers (although many will recognize The Other Boleyn Girl author Philippa Gregory), but their comments are fascinating nonetheless. More familiar figures, who are not actively involved for obvious reasons, include Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalene, Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, and Elizabeth I.
That list should give you an idea of just how broad-ranging Amador’s EVOLUTION is, and I won’t be the only one wondering, at times, whether they’re quite keeping up with what’s being said or, indeed, exactly which aspect of the core conundrum is being addressed at any particular time. This is a work that demands close attention, and even then does not serve up anything so mundane as a neat summation. As Amador herself says, “EVOLUTION will leave you with questions you didn’t know you had.”