Summary: Remarkable philosophical sci-fi from a great new director.
Review: Newbie director Duncan ‘Zowie’ Jones — David Bowie’s son — has officially blown my mind. The hard sci-fi awesomeness of the original ‘Solaris’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ has returned in the form of ‘Moon’, Jones’ debut film, starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a man working on the titular orb that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Kevin Spacey supplies the voice of Gerty, the apparently friendly computer that runs the base and is Sam’s only companionship. The details of the plot are directly tied to the surreality of the experience, so I’m afraid I can’t spoil it, though eventually it will suffer from ‘Planet of the Apes’ disease and have its great twists assimilated into common knowledge.
But ‘Moon’ really isn’t a movie about twists and turns. It’s really not a movie about science concepts, either, even though one familiar to modern audiences does appear. It’s more about loneliness. It’s about the tendency of human beings to divorce themselves from painful self-knowledge. Sam Bell could never have taken his harrowing journey towards overcoming his demons had he been working amidst a community. He, like the early Christian ascetics, found, unwittingly in this case, that in isolation there is a chance to explore the regions of heaven and hell within the human spirit. This is not a permanent pursuit; even Sam Bell must eventually return to Earth. The great danger for Sam Bell, as it was and is for all ascetics, is to become trapped in one’s hermitage, unable to overcome hell and trapped in a cycle of defeat. The nirvana of Buddhism is nothingness; the nirvana of the Christian monk is everything and everyone, when viewed through the right eyes. We are our worldview.
The music by Clint Mansell is a strong counterpoint to the music of Kubrick’s ‘2001’. Clint Mansell creates a score of the moment, a piano-driven, eerie, unsettling atmosphere that centers on the individual. The ‘2001’ soundtrack, with its many classical pieces from different sources, represents the whole of mankind and its evolution through encounters with the alien. Clint Mansell’s ‘Moon’ is always introspective. This provides an excellent contrast of the themes of each film. ‘Moon’ is about the one small step for a man; ‘2001’ is about one giant leap for mankind. In another sense, Clint Mansell’s score is ambient and uses electronic sounds to subtle effect, showing some similarity to Vangelis’ score for Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’. Both films have something to do with the relationship between identity and technology.
All in all, ‘Moon’ is spectacular filmmaking. It’s greatly moving and greatly creative. Here’s hoping for more from Duncan Jones.