When early explorers first set out west across the Atlantic, most people thought the world was flat.
Most people thought if you sailed far enough west you would drop off a plane into nothing.
These vessels sailing out into the unknown…

We’re not real.

We’re a projection of the imagination of Earth Two.

It would be very hard to think “I am over there”…
And “Can I go meet me?”…
And “Is that me better than this me?”
“Can I learn from the other me?”
“Has the other me made the same mistakes I’ve made?”
Or “Can I sit down and have a conversation with me?”
Wouldn’t that be an interesting thing?

The truth is, we do that all day long every day.
People don’t admit it and they don’t think about it too much, but they do.
Everyday, they’re talking in their own head.
”What’s he doing?”
”Why’d he do that?”
“What did she think?”
“Did I say the right thing?”

In this case, there is another you out there.

In Plato’s allegory of the cave, the people living in the cave all they knew what was in the cave, and one day one of them gets out… and goes out and sees the real world, comes back and tells the others.
You know what happened to him?
They beat him up. They didn’t believe it.
“That can’t be,” they said.
I don’t think we’re ready to know what’s out there. It’s a bad idea.

So you’d rather stay in the cave?
I mean, if Galileo had felt that, we’d still think we’re the center of the universe, that the sun is orbiting us.
I mean- They tried to burn him at the stake for that.

Yeah, maybe they should have.
We still think we’re the center of the universe.
We call ourselves Earth One, and them Earth Two.

Within our lifetimes, we have marveled.
As biologists have managed to look at ever smaller and smaller things.
And astronomers have looked further and further… into the dark night sky, back in time and out in space.
But maybe the most mysterious of all…
Is neither the small nor the large.
It’s us, up close.

Could we even recognize ourselves?
And if we did, would we know ourselves?
What would we say to ourselves?
What would we learn from ourselves?
What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves…
and look at us?

A visit to Christopher Priest’s site drew my attention to this movie (and made me bump up his book in my reading queue, so you should see “A Dream of Wessex” up there now). It’s a very good one and I recommend that you watch it.

The quotes above are extracted from the script but they may even give a wrong idea of what this movie is about. It carries its Sci-Fi “gimmick” (suddenly “another earth” appears in the sky, looking exactly as our own) well and convincingly, but the gimmick is not the point. This is a movie about characters and their stories, the focus never shifts away. It’s not like what they clumsily tried to do with Alcatraz (TV series), where they added to the standard procedural some mysterious elements as “flavor”. This isn’t a weird mix of parts that do not belong. The gimmick is instead just a point of view to observe something specific. A lens. You’re supposed to look through it, not at it.

“We structured it as a typical, straight drama, with all the reversals and character arcs, and then embedded it in this larger science fiction concept just for metaphor.”

I think it’s a movie that fulfills its goals perfectly and deals with its mystery well even if it’s not the focus. It illustrates well the distinction I make between “ambiguous” and “ambivalent”. It’s just a simplifying schema I use to define the ending of a mystery drama. Ambiguous is when you get no definite answers, what happened stays quite murky, you’re left confused and without an explanation about what went on. David Lynch, for example, usually falls in this category. And then there are ambivalent endings. These I consider much more satisfying because you’re given all the pieces to complete the puzzle. The movie is not deliberately obscure and ungenerous. The only problem is that you’re not given a definite, univocal solution. It’s open-ended. Meaning that you’re offered more than one solution to the puzzle. The movie doesn’t say which one is specifically the right one, it’s up to you to imagine the rest, you’re given this kind of power. But there aren’t parts that are missing or that you cannot properly reach, things that the director deliberately took away to prevent you to understand things as clearly as possible.

A very good quality of this movie compared to, say, Donnie Darko, is that it lacks pretentiousness and can be “held”. The end of the movie will spark a lot of questions, but you aren’t forced to watch it a second time with the hope to catch things you missed. What you need to know to understand it fully is all there. As a metaphor, its meaning is in the intent, not in the gimmick.

It’s curious because it’s part of the style of the movie too. It resembles some “found footage” movies or documentaries, where the “eye” of the camera is discreet. Giving the idea of observing objectively and passively. Yet in this movie I perceive a contradiction, since this eye is not discreet at all and is at times even invasive. See for example some conspicuous, sudden zooms. It almost seems creepy because it makes felt the presence of an observer, whose eye lingers and is precisely interested in details. It’s not a passive observer that disappears and is unnoticeable. It’s instead very deliberate. Usually I would criticize something like this, but in this context it matches the gimmick as a very deliberate and specific point of view. In this, it doesn’t pretend to be “true” or clinging to a pathetic idea of truth, but just tries to have an honest insight into this impossible situation. It’s fiction, it doesn’t pretend to be true, but it is honest.

In about a month a kind of companion work titled “Sound of My Voice” should come out in theaters in the US, I’d definitely watch it if I could.

Someone said that Sound of My Voice just keeps going deeper and deeper into more claustrophobic situations, while Another Earth just keeps going more open and open. They’re moving in different directions, and yet they’re working on something subconscious and magical.

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  1. […] since it’s who’s watching who gets to decide how it goes). (if you watch the movie Another Earth you’ll notice how they are built with the exact same intent, and even share the car incident […]

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