My MIFF screenings this year have been bookended by two similar films. My second film this year was Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia”, a film about a new planet that had been hiding behind the sun, which on a basic surface level is the same thing as my second last film “Another Earth”. This film had gotten a lot of praise for being a great indie film and while I agree that it is definitely a good film, two things got in my way of loving “Another Earth”.
One day after coming home from a party drunk and distracted, Rhoda crashes into another car killing everyone but the father inside. The man, John Burroughs, is an accomplished musician and after the crash, ends up in a coma. He lost his five year old son and his pregnant wife in the accident. Rhoda ends up going to jail for four years for her part in John’s family’s death. At the time of the accident, Rhoda was actually distracted by the discovery of a brand new planet, eventually nicknamed “Earth II” which had been hiding behind the sun.
By the time her four year jail term is up, scientists are preparing to visit “Earth II” for the first time. They have determined that the new planet is an exact replica of Earth complete with the same personnel on the planet. That means that there is essentially two of everybody. Another scientist comes up with the “broken mirror” theory which states that the planets were exactly the same until the new planet was discovered. Since then it has fractured and now follows its own path separate from our own. This is all very exciting and Rhoda enters a competition to try and get a seat on the spaceship travelling to “Earth II”.
However, right now in the present, she has more important things on her mind, namely to find John and to apologize to him for all the pain she has caused him. However when he answers the door, she loses her nerve and pretends to be from a cleaning company which is offering free trials. He accepts and she continues to clean his house regularly, with her justification being that she is helping him even if it is only in a minor capacity, until the inevitable happens and the two fall in love.
Now the two things that I disliked about “Another Earth”: first of all was the character of Rhoda herself. She is such an incredibly selfish person and is only looking to make herself feel better for what she has done, but doing so under the guise that she wants to make John feel better. By worming herself into this poor man’s life, there is an inevitability that he will eventually find out the truth, and the pain that he will feel when he does is unthinkable. She continually frustrated me. I suppose though this is one of the things the film is looking at, the fact that you cannot make up for something you did in the past (when it comes to this nature), and it certainly doesn’t condone what Rhoda is doing, but it still annoyed me and made me very angry. The other thing that drove me insane was director Mike Cahill’s constant and rapid zooming, it was nuts! The shot would begin at a nice position and then zoom at high speed to a close-up of whatever character was talking. If it was done once or twice, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but it happens all the time, and once I noticed it, I couldn’t stop noticing it.
Apart from that, though, I really liked the film, it was well written, and with the exception of the zooms, looked fantastic and it had a great emotional depth to it, plus I loved the ending.