Yesterday, I had the awesome opportunity to view two world premiere’s: Another Earth and Perfect Sense. Both films were fantastic and the true gem of the experience was paralleling my debut at Sundance with the world debut of these two films. I felt charged with an emotional connection to both films hearing the filmmakers speak about how they had never been screened in front of an audience. There I was sitting in a room of about 1300 people and I was going to be 1/1300th responsible for the history, the buzz, and the reception of these films. The production team has spent months and years putting together a finished product, but none of it matters if the connection can’t be made to audiences. Imagine you’re debuting a film at Sundance and the audience bursts into laughter at the exact moments you hoped they would and you hear tears muffled through the room when you intended to pull at their heartstrings. These physical reactions are the inspiration future filmmakers feed off of.
It is for this reason that I fell in love with Another Earth, in particular. It will forever be my first world premiere and my first Sundance film, but more importantly it was the director, editor, and cinematographer, Mike Cahill’s first feature film, first world premiere, and first entry in Sundance. He was nervous to speak to the crowd, stuttering and giggling while introducing the rest of the crew and the film, but he was obviously filled with pure elated passion for his final product. The movie was incredible, but the filmmaker’s introduction and Q&A alone were enough to illicit tears.
Enough of my whimsical aspirations and over emotional connection to young filmmakers, and more about the film. Another Earth was beautifully written and executed, with as few holes as any movie I’ve ever seen. Everything was taught, simple, and specific. Elements entered the movie, wove between other elements gracefully, and were completed with a solution that mirrored their entrance. The film moved so gracefully that it seemed almost like a novel with intricate layers, metaphors, motifs, microcosms, and every other vocabulary word from high school English. Yes perhaps there were a lot of unanswered questions and untapped story avenues, but I hear that critique about so many movies and TV shows and I’m just going to put it out there: I’m over it. Frankly, it doesn’t make any sense because the best films are always the ones with open ended conclusions and questions that leave you discussing the questions long after the film is out of theaters. If all of the questions were addressed then the mysticism, the poetry, and the reality of the whole production is blown. In real life do we find out the answer to everything? Absolutely not. So when audiences are frustrated to find that not everything is tied up perfectly, they should consider how much more emotionally connected a story can be if it’s based on real life dissatisfaction. The film ends on somewhat of a cliff hanger that may drive some audiences crazy, but if they stopped to honestly think about the craft of filmmaking elaborating would eliminate the thought and emotions behind the entire film.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, its ambiguous ending Another Earth finds balance wonderfully, addressing and completing enough character depth with Rhoda (Brit Marling) and John (William Mapother) for the audience to become invested, understand their motivations, and form an opinion about their situations, while at the same time, revealing these details about Rhoda and John only when necessary. It makes the audience feel as though the information is a precious gift to be cherished, almost exactly as if you were genuinely getting to know them in real life. It instantly creates a connection so that the audience member feels smart, intuitive, and friendly. When a character drinks OJ in the opening scene of a film and then later orders it for dinner at a restaurant, an audience member can notice this quirk and nudge their neighbor to say, “Hey, she drank that in the beginning too!”
In addition to these mind blowing story elements, Another Earth boasts a unique cinematic style, stellar low-budget effects, a wonderful score, and two outstanding lead performances, that couple with director’s superb storytelling approach to create a truly unique film.
Thanks for listening to my long rant about Another Earth, honestly I would give you my opinion about Perfect Sense but I feel it deserves its own rant and I’m taking up too much of this blog as it is. Tune in for Dan Koch’s initial reaction to Perfect Sense, which is pretty different from mine.