Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another Earth (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

Another Earth

"Another Earth" is the feature length debut film from Mike Cahill.  It is part mumblecore Indie and part Sci/Fi fantasy. Sometimes it twists and bends and folds under in its narrative like a fractalized image but it is no less intriguing for it. And if the film stumbles a bit, betraying riddles and voids, I give the director an "S" for space, for having courage in allowing  the film the space it needs to tell a mature, thoughtful story over time. This is no small leap.
The film focuses on Rhoda (Brit Marling) who is a high school student on the fast track to the M.I.T. Astrophysics program. She is out late  and she hits a car head on. The family dies, with the father (William Mapother) the sole survivor.
Four years later, Rhoda's academic career is  a mere fugue in her memory. Rhoda takes a menial job as a high school janitor. She begins to research the remaining survivor of the killed family. He is a respected college professor and composer, now dissolved in grief. Rhoda begins to intrude upon his life in the hope of some reconciliation.
As she trudges on her journey through an innerspace of guilt, she is bombarded by images and thoughts of space travel. She spies an alien walk by. Or is it a man? And a shadowy man leaves a small robot figure under a tree. The film is  loaded with symbolism but we are left in the dark as to what it all means. When Rhoda returns home from work each night, there is always a news broadcast on the TV, highlighting the discovery of "Earth 2" an identical twin of our own planet. All is still. Everyone in the living room is frozen with bland interest. The light from the TV is the brightest thing in the room. This is actually quite creepy. This eerie atmosphere is  the way the film "Super 8" should have looked.
Rhoda, with her pale features and steel blond hair is a lost Alice in Wonderland. Much of the film is silent with little dialogue. Full of stark imagery and  voluptuous Earths, the visual rhythm of the film owes a debt to Nicholas Roeg, specifically  "The Man Who Fell to Earth" (1976). Cahill does a lot with very little. 

There are no lasers or exploding effects here. 
The only thing that seemed an unwelcome visitor was the much used hand-held camera. In many scenes, mostly at the opening, it made me plain dizzy rather than enhance the action. If the "other earth" has such a camera that becomes overused, I'd just assume stay here, thank you. 
Overall, the grainy camerawork fit very well with the narrative but I did think that if Kurt Cobain made a Sci/Fi film, this would be it.
The latter part of the film makes a bit less of an impact then the first half---the camera spends  quite a bit of time wandering about a filthy apartment as the characters shuffle and sigh and the film tries too hard---but then again, the Godot-like pace does illustrate the apprehensive wait or the weight that we bring upon this earth. 
"Another Earth" is not a Major Tom film but it is no trifle either. It will make you jump and think.
And if the final surprise makes you peer through a telescope, so much the better.          

Write Ian at

No comments: