Another Earth (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Another Earth (2011)

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Another Earth arrives with questions of metaphysics and spirituality that does not bother to invoke the name of God or any other kind of religion.  It simply proffers a story, a sad one at that, of a girl who did something horrible and has lost all sense of identity and the man she tries to heal through an act as tender as it is cruel.  All the while a second Earth hovers above, acting as a constant reminder that things may be different, or at least offer the opportunity to have someone who completely understands who you are.

Rhoda (Brit Marling) needs someone to understand where she is.  The night that Earth-2 is discovered she is celebrating her acceptance into MIT.  Drunk and filled with longing at the new planet, she runs into a car killing a woman and child, leaving the father, John, (William Mapother) in a coma for four years.  He wakes up shortly after she's released from prison and she, in a fairly cruel act of deception (no matter the ends she is trying to attain), poses as a cleaner from Maid In Heaven to try and tidy up his life.

It's fitting that the movie takes four years to really get it's plot into proper gear.  That, and it's no coincidence, is the length of a Presidential term and we are in an age of disappointment at our latest Commander In Chief.  It's easy to forget exactly how much hope we had in the future when Obama was first elected.  It seemed like we were finally ready to take steps into proper globalization and care for our citizens.  But now it just seems like we're wondering how things could have been better, what we could have been had we been a little stronger.

There's a lot of American-indie aesthetics in play but they're well-utilized in the philosophy of the film.

This isn't to say that Another Earth is explicitly political, but it's hard to deny the parallels of lost hope between the grieving father and Rhoda and our own disappointment here.  The more direct connections are between Another Earth's deliberately philosophical musings and the films of the great Polish director, Krzysztof Kieslowski.  His films were filled with ruminations of chance and unexamined spiritual connections which Another Earth lifts from, at points, quite directly.

The most obvious comparison is to The Double Life of Veronique, but Another Earth draws most strongly from Kieslowski's Blue.  Both have to deal with a sudden tragedy that leaves very little to pick up, and both make stunning use of music by featuring composers in starring roles.  But there are some distinctly American twists to Another Earth that free it from being just a well-intentioned copy of Blue.

There's a sense of hope and decency that more obviously permeates the very beginning of Another Earth.  Another intriguing twist is the commodification of the very concept of having "another chance", as an American corporation is offering a contest to send a lucky few into space to visit the other planet (bearing no surprise the very small news report that shows the increased value of their stocks).  Even little touches, the way that John plays a saw and makes it sound like a chorus of crying angels, reminded me of the beauty of bluegrass, another distinctly American sound.

For all the moments of philosophical musings the one's most directly affecting involve quiet remembrance of a shared history.

Another Earth is also absolutely stunning to look at.  For a movie made on a shoestring budget (Mapother agreed to work for $100 a day and it cost about $200,000 overall) it utilizes handheld HD and slow, gorgeous wide angle shots of the shore looking out over onto the new planet.  Taking place entirely from Rhoda's perspective we see the grainy distortion of her fractured self and the pristine clarity she feels when alone and in the presence of another world.

Mapother and Marling are great in the leads, but this is a movie that proves the "show, don't tell" axiom so well that their performances are more in service to the visuals.  The greatest acting moment belongs to a doctor on the television, who hears herself across the airwaves and the look on her face explains everything.  "Yes, for the first time, I know I'm not alone at all."

This film brought me to tears again and again.  It's so gentle and understanding of the need to have someone else who really gets the pain you've gone through, and the sadness in realizing that the only person who will ever truly "get" that is yourself.  Even in it's happiness this is a movie that highlights the profound loneliness that can't be overcome.  There's so much implied in that final shot that even if we find someone who may completely understand, the quickest way to ruin it is to speak.

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Another Earth (2011)

Directed by Mike Cahill.
Screenplay by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling.
Starring William Mapother and Brit Marling.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. “A chorus of crying angels” – I LOVE it! You can hear and download the musical saw scene music from the composer’s website

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