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Another Earth, Movie Review July 29, 2011

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
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Last Sunday night I went to a pre-screening of the film Another Earth with my Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writer’s group.  It was a unique opportunity because the lead actress and co-writer, Brit Marling, and the director and co-writer, Mike Cahill, held a questions and answers session immediately following the screening.

The movie itself is riveting.  It is amazing that this small group of independent film makers put together such an excellent film.  Two young people, Brit and Mike, had a dream to make a movie outside the system where there aren’t any rules.  They had little money but their goal was to make a movie that would have a human story with a sci-fi twist.  In an interview, co-writer, Brit Marling said, “We always wanted to do a sci-fi story in which, if you stripped away the high concept, it would still hold weight.”  They certainly achieved their goal.  The powerful story would hold its own without the sci-fi aspect yet this aspect is woven in throughout.

Another Earth premiered at The Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. No one was paying much attention to the film because it was written by two relatively unknowns: Mike Cahill was a documentarian and Brit Marling an investment-banking analyst.  At the festival it won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and was then acquired by Fox Searchlight.  Fox said: “This is a film that questions the existence of a parallel universe, the possibility of another you.”

During the film, Rhoda looked at the “other earth” that had moved close to our earth and wondered if there is another Rhonda on that planet and if that Rhonda had made the same terrible mistake she had. Was the other Rhonda a better person? Implied is the question that we all ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had made different choices or if something hadn’t happened that derailed my plans?”

Here’s how the story is described on the iTune Movie Trailer:

“Rhoda Williams, (Brit Marling) a bright young woman recently accepted into MIT’s astrophysics program, aspires to explore the cosmos. John Burroughs, (William Mapother) a brilliant composer, has just reached the pinnacle of his profession, and is about to have a second child with his loving wife. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes, and the lives of these strangers become irrevocably intertwined. Estranged from the world and the selves they once knew, the two outsiders begin an unlikely love affair, which reawakens them to life. But when one of them is presented with the opportunity to travel to the other Earth and embrace an alternative reality, which new life will they choose?”

During the questions and answers session after the film an attendee asked Mike and Brit how they came up with the story.  Brit said that she saw a documentary that Mike had done and loved it so much that she wanted to do something with him.  Eventually they decided to do a film together.  They met and talked about ideas and as a story evolved began to hash it out.  Because they worked outside of the film industry they had more freedom to follow their vision.  They had a small budget so filmed in Brit’s mother’s house, a school, and in an old farmhouse.

They were asked about the physics in the movie.  Such as: If another planet got that close to earth wouldn’t it cause all sorts of problems? and How could there be parallel earth?  Mike explained that the original film included a lot more of the physics behind it, which included string theory.  The original film was two hours and forty minutes long.  They decided to leave out the scientific explanations and cut the movie to about an hour and three quarters.  They felt that the focus of the movie should be on the story.  But they added when the film came out in DVD people could see all the scenes that were cut.

Brit and Mike also talked about their excitement of being in the film festival and getting a standing ovation after the film was viewed.   Afterwards they were thrilled to get an offer for the film from Fox Searchlight a prestigious film company who did such films as Black Swam.  They’ve loved working with Fox Searchlight.

Hilary from the speculative fiction group said she hated cleaning but loved the metaphor in the movie of cleaning.  For Rhonda cleaning John’s house was a way of cleaning her soul.  She was trying to do something to make his life a little better, then realized she was helping herself.   Brit said that the film group of twelve would meet in an old farmhouse, which was used as part of the set, and eat their meals.  Then she would have to clean up and be filmed as she cleaned.  Brit doesn’t like cleaning and thought, “Hey I’m getting a bad deal here.”

Paul, a friend of ours, asked if Mike and Brit’s dreams and understanding of a parallel universe had changed since making the movie.  Brit said Mike really believed it and the film crew wondered if they should tell him it was only a movie.  Mike said is was a good question and that there is new research that supports the possibility of a parallel world being true.

When I walked away from the theater I couldn’t help thinking how amazing it was that these two young people with no experience making a fiction movie and little money could have a dream and make it into a reality.   It served as a reminder to never give up on your dreams. Amazing things can happen if you follow your heart.

I’ve included a trailer of the film and an interview with the Brit Marling.  Even if you don’t like science fiction this is an impactful, character driven film.  The trailer is described as “stark and chilling, the acting understated”—a perfect counter balance for all the action-packed movies of the summer.

I welcome any thoughts or comments you have about the movie or blog.

Here is NPR interview with Brit Marling

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/07/22/138606818/living-multiple-outcomes-brit-marling-is-a-hyphenate-on-another-earth

Here is a trailer of the movie:

 

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