Another Earth – #stillshot

In #stillshot, Features, FILM, THEATRE & TV, HOME by Hannah Oliver

#stillshot is a feature in which someone selects a frame from a film, episode or campaign and discusses its content. The idea being to illustrate how the art of film composition, aesthetic and acting expression can convey the messages of entire movements and ephemeralities in a split-second. Also, ’cause there’s some pretty cool film shots out there.

Another Earth – 2011

another earthDirected by: Mike Cahill

Written by: Mike Cahill and Brit Marling

Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach

At a glance, it seems an overlarge moon. Before contours and deep blue shadows register as patterns of the third planet from the sun. Earth and space are separated by the divisive line of our horizon, as are we from Rhoda, central figure with her back turned to us just as she turned it to everyone in life, for a time. We all stare forward at the same thing: huge, awesome and familiar, yet somehow daunting. Another Earth.

We’re really quite good at duplicating ourselves – imagining ourselves from the outside, creating an identity that is distanced from that which we are. Bigger, better, grass is greener and all that jazz. That sharp line on the horizon plants Rhoda firmly within our sphere, on this harsh, flat, deep blue sea and the rocks. Up above, the other Earth hangs seemingly buoyed, weightless, beautiful among the clouds. She imagines another Rhoda up there: ‘has the other me made the same mistakes I’ve made? And is that me better than this me?’

She is in mourning for, among other things, the person she could have been. A terrible accident – and if an accident can have fault then it is hers – takes away a future at MIT as well as the lives of a mother and child. As the film progresses and time moves on, the other Earth looms larger and larger, an ever greater quasi-duplicity of Rhoda’s life, but with the promise of a fracture in synchronization: a future without the accident, and so a gradual crescendo of hope and torture.

Of course, hope and torture can never truly be reconciled. Perhaps because the hope is the torture. All the characters in Another Earth are desperately sad and dislocated, for the distance between what they are and what they feel they should be. An old cleaner pours bleach in his eyes and his ears so he doesn’t have to see or hear himself. And even pre-accident, the celebrations at the beginning of the film are ruptured, cold and disjunct by the cinematographic style. This is, in short, a film about home, and what it can mean when home, the place where we are, is not a place of comfort, solace or safety. There is no relief in the cold, blue filters of sea and sky. There is no sense of home here in this place where beauty brings only frostbite and death; with her eyes on the heavens Rhoda careers into a family car from her own, she lies down in the ice at night having shod her clothes.

But she is far from alone – close behind her honey-blond hair and the camera lens, we also stare at this other Earth as if we too have dislocated ourselves from home. We observe and are observed through other lenses in an increasing surveillance culture of CCTV, bugging, paparazzi, whilst a new world online offers a version of ourselves which can be censored and filtered to perfection. The fall-out for forsaking what we know and the things of value around us is, simply, the distance between these earths, between what we are and what we want. And this distance we seem so often to fill with poisonous chemicals and loud actions – and car crashes, frostbite and bleach are extreme only in the immediacy of their violence. When we can see before our very eyes a landscape in which life is, quite literally, as pretty as a picture, no wonder we are too far away from ourselves to identify with anything homely at all; indeed – this other Earth could almost, at a glance, be the moon.

Hannah Oliver

Hannah Oliver is the Editor of FILM, THEATRE & TELEVISION at PTL. She studies English Literature at the University of Edinburgh and would like to think this an apt excuse for her tendency to be overly florid, pleonastic and long-winded (yeah, we couldn’t find a more pretentious word for long-winded). However, there are two things to effectively shut her up – coffee and/or chocolate. ’Nuff said.

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