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Michael Pitt & Brit Marling in I Origins
Michael Pitt and Brit Marling in I OriginsCourtesy of Fox Searchlight Films

Geek out with the best radical science films

From I Origins to The Imitation Game, go off-the-grid with sci-fi's finest on celluloid

I ORIGINS (2014)

Spiritual faith in the unexplained and scientific skepticism eye each other uneasily in Another Earth director Mike Cahill's stylishly shot sci-fi, which suggests that our irises may hold the key to our personal reincarnation histories. Research student Ian (Michael Pitt, wearing the hell out of a lab coat) is trying to make a DNA breakthrough with the help of his assistant (Brit Marling), but gets thrown off track by Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), the impulsive girl he meets at a Brooklyn rooftop party whose eyes he photographs.


Morten Tyldum's drama depicts how genius Brit computer scientist and cryptologist Alan Turing (a convincing Benedict Cumberbatch) pushed his era forward technologically but was destroyed by its rigid social codes, as he helped break Nazi code in the '40s and influence the development of modern computing, but was prosecuted for having a gay relationship when it was still a criminal offence. It opens the London Film Festival on Wednesday 8 October.


Twin zoologists studying animal behaviour are plunged into grief-fuelled obsession with a beautiful amputee after a car accident involving a swan kills their wives outside Rotterdam Zoo. This strange, sumptuously coloured and costumed blend of Dutch Baroque style and twisted science is directed by extravagant Brit auteur Peter Greenaway.


“Calcium is in bones and stars alike,” we’re told in Patricio Guzman's innovative documentary, which turns to astronomy for transformative poetry to heal the historical amnesia resulting from the trauma of Pinochet's military dictatorship in Chile. It's set in the Atacama desert – the driest place on Earth, favoured by astronomers due to the clearness of its skies – where the skeletons of the disappeared are buried.


Inspired by Frankenstein, two Chicago nerds decide to create a "perfect" woman on their home PC, hacking into the Pentagon mainframe when they run out of processing power, in this goofy John Hughes comedy classic. Add a Barbie doll with wire electrodes and a lightning bolt, and you get a devoted and superhuman Kelly LeBrock, according to the questionable laws of 80s male teen adolescent fantasy.


For a more, ahem, serious-minded view on nature as a machine fantasy and how humanity's vision of computers as transformers of reality has only managed to distort the world we live in, check out this doc series of audacious association by filmmaker Adam Curtis, named after a Richard Brautigan poem that called for a utopia in which mammals and computers were fused in perfect harmony.


This mind-bending collab between writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze dramatises Kaufman’s attempt to adapt Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, about a Florida rare Ghost Orchid poacher, into a script. Nic Cage plays Charlie, a self-loathing Hollywood screenwriter in the grip of writer’s block, who discovers that the flower is wanted as a prized scientific ingredient to manufacture a drug called fascination.


Performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and partner Lady Jaye challenged the limits of biology, applying the Cut-Up technique of William S. Burroughs to body modification as they underwent surgical procedures to look more and more alike, with the ideal of merging into one pandrogymous being. This radical manifestation of romantic love forms the subject of New York-based filmmaker Marie Losier’s intimate documentary, which was filmed over a number of years.


Swedish director Maja Borg searches for a more sustainable means of existence at 97-year-old futurist Jacque Fresco's The Venus project, which advocates a resource-based system that's done away with money and uses machines more intelligently. Blending super-8 sci-fi sequences with moving reflections, the experimental doc is a farewell letter to Borg's past lover (Italian actress Nadya Cazan, who introduced her to Fresco's vision) and a call to humanity to let go of our failed economic system.


Science alone isn't enough to save the neuroscientist in Darren Aronofsky's romantic sci-fi fantasy from despair, as he battles against time to find a cure for his terminally ill wife, a writer in the middle of a story about a conquistador on a quest for the Tree of Life. Esoteric mysticism completes the mix as the film leaps forward to 2055, to an outer space of golden nebulas where the connection between all existence can be gleaned, and which an astronaut is travelling through in a biosphere bubble.