Waking on the Moon
My last post was about the moon. This one is about the new film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones.
It opens with an in-story promotional video explaining that an isotope of helium abundant on the moon is now mined there to provide much of Earth’s power. The lone man monitoring the collection of the isotope is Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell. A robotic apparatus called Gerty is his only company; with satellite communications down Sam can’t even talk to his employers at Lunar Industries, let alone his wife and daughter, in real time. Thankfully his three-year hitch, darn near driving him crazy, is almost up. Or maybe it’s driven him crazy already? (Gerty is voiced by Kevin Spacey in
a tone akin to that of 2001’s HAL, adding to its potential menace.)
The above is more than I knew of the film going into it, and ignorance is preferable here. I was expecting a meditation on extreme isolation in a speculative-fiction context, and initially got just that, but there came a pivotal plot development revealed by most reviews I’ve since read. (Another name for science fiction, or SF, “speculative fiction” is used by some to connote greater emphasis on realistic exploration of sociology or psychology within a plausibly fantastic or futuristic scenario; put another way, it’s less about style and more about substance than much popular “sci-fi” today.) Even the film’s official website quickly hits upon a central conflict that I think is better left hidden, although once it’s introduced the viewer is still unsure of where the story is going for quite some time.
If you’ve read anything about Moon you likely know that director Jones, who devised the story adapted for the screen by Nathan Parker, is the son of David Bowie; born David Jones, Bowie referred to Duncan during his youth by his middle name Zowie. Had this relationship not existed, Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” would still have come to mind during the film, both presenting us with a cloistered astronaut confronting a perhaps literal, perhaps conceptual paradigm shift in his reality. Another serendipity that struck was the discovery that Trudie Styler, wife of Sting, was one of the film’s producers, as The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” was in my head on the way out of the theater and got tweaked for this post’s title. (Sting’s oeuvre also includes “Sister Moon” and “Moon over Bourbon Street”.) In the antonymic direction, Moon includes the most amusing usage of Katrina and the Waves’ hit “Walking on Sunshine” in a dramatic film to date, but its actual score, composed by Clint Mansell, is as appropriately evocative as its sets and cinematography.
Spoilers are fine in the comments section for those who’d like to discuss.
Related: Life, the Universe, and Everything • Swan Dive
• Here Am I Sitting in a Tin Can, Far Above the World