Another Earth

Brit Marling in "Another Earth."

From June 16 -26 the Brooklyn Academy of Music presented Bam cinemaFest.  The event is an annual BAMcinematek presentation, bringing together new movies culled from film festivals around the world. On Saturday June 25 I attended a screening of “Another Earth,” which will open on July 22.  It was my second viewing of “Another Earth,” a film which has captured my imagination, and is one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time.

While “Another Earth” could accurately be described as science fiction, it is so much more than that. Last week, when I wrote about the re-release of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976), I described it as a science fiction film that does not bring in the usual science fiction hardware, but is instead a story about people.  Similarly, “Another Earth” is a story about authentic characters with real emotions.  The screenplay and its dialogue are direct, spare and to the point, in a way that so few films are.

The film’s premise is that a duplicate planet Earth (called Earth 2) is discovered and potentially contains duplicates of us all.   The concept provides the framework for a story of redemption.  Brit Marling (who co-wrote the screenplay) plays Rhoda, a young woman who desperately needs to be forgiven for something she did that has had tragic consequences.

Mike Cahill, the film’s quadruple threat director, co-writer, cinematographer and editor conducted a post screening Q&A at Saturday’s BAM screening of “Another Earth.” He was joined by cast members Marling and William Mapother (also of TV’s “Lost”).  Cahill talked about the genesis of “Another Earth,” explaining that, “It came from the idea of what it would be like to meet yourself.  If you could sit across from yourself, that internal dialogue that we have in our brains, if that could be externalized.  What would that feel like?  Would you judge that person, like that person, dislike that person?”  The film also deals with the possibility of being able to forgive oneself, something that is expressed wordlessly in the movie’s final, breath-taking image.

“Another Earth” was shot on high definition video and was made for very little money.  Cahill has made brilliant use of his small budget, creating a low budget aesthetic that truly serves the story.  In discussing the film’s look Cahill said, “There’s something special about the rawness of it.  I’m attracted to the rawness of it.  Things are not perfectly lit, things have a sense of verite and real life.”  In addition to the film’s verite look, Marling and Mapother give very natural, nuanced performances as the two damaged main characters.

“Another Earth,” in addition to the clarity of its story, left me, and others with whom I saw the film, much to ponder and debate.  I found myself caring very much about the film’s two main characters.  When I told Cahill my theory about the fate of one of the characters he paused, smiled mischievously, turned his body from side to side and replied that he would neither confirm nor deny my idea.   Perhaps this is the stuff of great narrative film making.

Another Earth, Director Mike Cahill, 2011,

Fox Searchlight,  92 minutes


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 27, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. As someone who has already seen this film twice and, indeed, I would relish seeing it again, I think that you have absolutely nailed its essence-incredible writing, acting, and direction. In a season of super hero films, a small, beautiful original story of people who are not so heroic, trying to cope with what life throws them (and really us), is startlingly refreshing. “Another Earth” will long be remembered after most of this year’s films are forgotten.

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