Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another Earth (Mike Cahill)

Earth 2.

It's a true breath of fresh air to really watch something like "Another Earth" especially in a time where science fiction films almost always equate to aliens, colorful spaceships and the expanse of the outer space. Although this film has small doses of each of the aforementioned sci-fi stereotypes, "Another Earth" is a whole lot different, highly inventive all on its own and, in the fashion of films like Duncan Jones' masterful "Moon", beautifully dramatic.

Unusually, the film is founded by two narrative extremes: One is its angle of human drama, which exemplifies simplicity in approach, and the other is its transcendental vision, which highlights the film's ambitious scope. With this kind of double content which may risk the equal depiction attention of both ends, balance is most important, and the film, for that matter, does not disappoint.

Mike Cahill, who directs his first cinematic film (his previous one, co-directed by Brit Marling, being a documentary), did what most fresh filmmakers must do, and it is to enter the film scene not with anxieties and insecurities of visions, but with utter confidence and a slight dash of flamboyance. Such ideas like this one here in "Another Earth" admittedly does take a lot of guts and unbounded devotion to really pull off and be successful in its execution. And of course, such far-reaching exercise of the imagination do need a 'more than adequate' budget, but the film nevertheless proved that it isn't always the case, and that often times than not, mind outweighs currency, vision exceeds the means and conceptual quality reigns over monetary quantity. Even just for that reason alone, "Another Earth" should be viewed as an ideal celebration of the creative affluence of the independent film spirit.

The performances in the film, although done by fairly unknown performers, were still able to convey the film's dramatic essence. Brit Marling (also the film's co-writer), who plays the film's main character Rhoda, is assured and effectively compact in her portrayal of a young woman and her guilt-ridden (because of her involvement in a tragic car accident) descent into a directionless existence. Although Marling's character is a fairly complex role to play with her constant transformation from being lost, finding herself, being lost and finding herself again, her performance captured Rhoda's lack of existential motivations early on in the film that it made her character simpler to empathize with.

William Mapother, playing John, is quietly affecting in his portrayal of the anguished musical composer/professor who lost his family in the said accident, is blank-eyed in his detachment from life, but whose connection with Rhoda, being unaware of her involvement in the accident, soon slowly brings him back into its tender symphony.

"Another Earth", although as what I've said earlier, purely relies on the counterbalancing of its main dual content (simplistic human drama and grandiose sci-fi vision), it's also significant in its subtle irony. What if in the aftermath of death there's more to life? What if in tragedy there's love? What if in the presence of a celestial wonder there's disillusionment? "Another Earth" can only contemplate the answers, but rest assured, it's inclined towards what's more hopeful.


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