Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Moon is a great film. It reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1972) and even Blade Runner (1982).
The film centres on Sam Bell (played marvellously by Sam Rockwell), a miner living alone in a space station on the far side of the moon. Here, he operates mining equipment which harvests helium 3, the source of much of the world’s energy. His only friend is GERTY (voiced by the wonderful Kevin Spacey), an overly helpful computer, who shows his empathetic responses through a series of emoticons ranging from happy to tearful. Imagine if HAL had been programmed to smother you with friendliness and sensitivity. But for Sam, a programmed friend is much better than none at all. The communication system has been broken for the duration of his stay and the only videos he gets from home appear to have been edited. As Sam approaches the end of his three-year contract, he is slowly losing his mind to loneliness and isolation. He even sees a series of visions reminiscent of those in Tarkovsky’s Solaris.
Sam eventually has an accident while going out on a mission to check the mining equipment. He wakes up back in the station, having been ostensibly treated by GERTY. When he gets a warning that there is a problem at the mine site, he drives out there only to discover an injured version of himself. The mystery is solved when we discover that there are in fact two Sam Bells, the surname ‘Bell’ suggesting a sense of lingering and repetitious sound: the first one was the victim of the crash at the mine site and the second one is his replacement who rescues him. It turns out that the company has been economically using clones, whose memories and life have been extracted from the original and real Sam Bell. Until the two cloned Sams encounter each other, the secret has not been discovered because each Sam dies at the end of his three-year contract. Indeed, the first Sam is visibly undergoing cellular senescence as he nears the end of his term.
Although the two Sams become friends, a complication arises when the company dispatches a rescue team to investigate the accident. Knowing that they will both be killed when discovered together, the two Sams must think of a solution to their dilemma.
The film addresses many philosophical, existential and metaphysical issues including the nature of the self, our responsibilities to others and the reliability of memory. Despite its exploration of serious themes, the movie still has strong emotional power. There were several instances in the film that moved me to tears, the first of which was when the first Sam realises that he is but a clone with false memories. Another moment was when he tries to communicate with his daughter and discovers that the real Sam is living with her on Earth. Finally, I felt the scene in which the second Sam is forced to carry the dying body of the first Sam very moving. How sad is it to be the pallbearer of your own corpse?
In one scene, the flailing Sam yells, ‘I want to go home!’ This scene should resonant with anyone who is living abroad. Even if we are not on the moon, being away from your family can feel just as isolated and helpless. Of course, the moon can also represent a kind of emotional wasteland, where we all might find ourselves abandoned. There, you are alone, you feel empty, you doubt your own existence, you yearn to return home.