Film Review: Another Earth
If there is one thing to be said for contemporary science fiction, it’s the strange places and circumstances where you find it. Where Hollywood tentpoles trade sensory overload and an overabundance of audience handholding, the Indie scene has yielded some of the genre’s most unique works since the 60’s. This year has given us three similar yet divergent entries, Malick’s abstract Tree of Life, Von Trier’s nihilistic Melancholia and now the micro-budget Another Earth. Each film focused on the happenings on planet earth or greater solar events as either integral or euphemistic events in their stories. Malick juxtaposed the Horsehead Nebula with childhood; Von Trier slammed a planet into Earth as Kirsten Dunst’s Justine spiralled into depression. Another Earth’s follows both of these patterns, with interplanetary events acting as both physical and philosophical.
As ultra low budget sci-fi indies go, Another Earth’s rough edges show up in bold strokes. Shot by director (co-writer and editor) Mike Cahill at 720p throughout and often apparently without regard to correct aperture or white balancing, shots and even entire scenes sometimes show evidence of severe graininess. A tell tale sign of attempted colour correction following underlit shooting sessions. This film lacks even the polish of Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (one of the best films of 2010, intriguingly shot on the same Sony EX3 cameras as Another Earth), although the imperfections are sometimes distracting they are a quaint reminder of the ballsy, guerrilla filmmaking that brings our attention to the indie scene. Another Earth’s aesthetic reminds us of the normalcy of life on this planet, no matter how mundane. Although it is debatable in regards to the extent that this is unique anymore. True, independent sci-fi is in a renaissance but how much more quasi-Tarkovsky stylings can we expect to see before the impact wears off?
The film’s lead role is its most promising, as credited co-writer Brit Marling emerges as one of this year’s most impressive rising female talents alongside Miranda July and Emily Browning. The role of Rhoda is refreshingly unconventional without ever coming across as eccentric, but fundamentally it’s an emotionally charged performance and often a daring one. William Mapother on the other hand is sporadically engaging, but often his delivery comes across as stilted.
Another Earth has its flaws, mainly in its execution. But these technical faults will yield a learning curve in its creators in whatever projects will follow this one. Its ideas will inspire debate, emotionally it will move you, just expect it do these things in moderation however. That said, if the technical hitches can be overcome by the time we witness Cahill and (hopefully) Marling’s next production then there may be a masterpiece waiting in the wings.