Cloning: More Than Just Flesh Created By A Scientific Process
|Starring:||Joe McClean, Jo Barrick, Tim Connerty, Cheryl Morrier, Brian Tom O’Conner, James E. O’Donnell, Jr.|
“Is that it, is there anything else?” The Doctor asks Michael. Michael sits dumb. You see, there IS something else but Michael has no idea what it is.
“A Reasonable Hypothesis” is an intriguing new short film from writer/director Jack Ferry. It poses a question about human cloning that goes beyond the initial ethical considerations related to the flesh created by the scientific process. The question involves what would happen if you had a body on hold to inhabit in the event that you are about to kick the bucket? The problem raised involves whether the human soul is preserved in the transfer of your memories to the new host. Jack Ferry’s entertainingly macabre film is good at raising the question but leaves the audience to ponder the answer.
Michael (Joe McClean) has been haunted by nightmares concerning whether he has a soul. In his nightmares, he remembers a visit his mother made when he was a child to a priest causing him to be plagued by dark images of a doctor and his sadistic nurse. The priest is surprised to learn that Michael’s mother used a fertility clinic to conceive and the father, if one actually exists, is unknown. The priest spouts damaging ideology to the mother in the presence of Michael leaving Michael with the impression that he may not have a soul because, after all, science cannot create the soul, rather, only God is capable of such a feat.
Without exactly demonizing the idea of human cloning, “A Reasonable Hypothesis” manages to show the dark side of both extreme views, one in favor of cloning and scientific conception, and one against it from the religious perspective. This year, with the gay marriage debate brewing now in Washington, I realized that arguing ethical questions is often impossible particularly when the convictions of the extremes are so firmly based in religious or moral ideology. Therefore, for the moment, I have given up arguing to many conservatives here in Atlanta, the ridiculousness of a constitutional amendment related to defining the term marriage. The same would hold true, I think, on the human cloning debate.
At one point in “A Reasonable Hypothesis,” the priest states that God must have had a reason for making Michael’s mother infertile. The priest says this to make the point that we ought not mess with God’s plan for each of us. Of course, such a view begs the question whether God’s gift of science is part of the plan as well. In other words, one wonders if scientific thought originates as part of the plan or if it is an aberration, something from the dark side. I, for one, don’t believe in such a limited view of God’s plan. Limiting our ability to help those in need when God has given scientists and doctors mental faculties capable of finding solutions to human tragedy can’t be part of the master plan, can it? Of course, there must be limits, right?
HBO’s excellent 2004 film “Something The Lord Made” raised these questions with regard to heart surgery. Apparently, the medical view of the heart prior to the astonishing work of Doctor Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas was “hands off.” I was moved by the scenes in “Something The Lord Made” involving the surgery which was one of the first successful such operations of its kind. Today, heart surgery is commonplace.
While I doubt that human cloning on the level of “A Reasonable Hypothesis” will ever be commonplace, this short film manages to evoke many of the same stirring emotions I experienced while watching “Something The Lord Made.” The problem with “Hypothesis” is its science fiction flourishes that often turn into excesses. In other words, “Hypothesis” goes too much for macabre instead of exploring the obvious realty associated with the future, and the now, of human cloning. “A Reasonable Hypothesis” reminds me of all the dark parts of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
And the plot holes in “Hypothesis” mainly associated with the existence of the hospital and bizarre character of the doctor and his sexy, in the most dirty of ways, nurse, undermine the serious issues debated. The doctor and the nurse are straight out of the familiar horror genre and lack the greater dimensional depth needed to properly sell the material. The priest is surprisingly one of the most realistic characters created by writer/director Ferry (which may be his intention). It was as though Ferry was afraid to tackle the big questions on a more credible intellectual level thus losing the MTV crowd. The direction and camera-work is an eclectic mix of clever angles and mediums or video processes, fuzzy dissolves, and quick cuts. At times, it feels influenced by “28 Days Later.” This approach, while certainly entertaining, left me wanting. After all, as Ferry points out in the press materials human cloning is closer than we think.
“A Reasonable Hypothesis” is a great example of the advantages of short form. At a 20 minute running time, this film raises the thought-provoking questions elegantly and holds your attention well if only through disturbing images that may be excessively gruesome in places. Stretched into feature length, I fear that “Hypothesis” might go the way of Hollywood variations on the idea like “Godsend” released earlier this year.
The thoughts evoked by “Hypothesis” don’t require more film necessarily but more convincing character development which, admittedly, is difficult in just 20 minutes. Still, the doctor’s empty question to Michael asking if there is anything else is the right one.