A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a promo for the 2011 sci-fi movie, Another Earth. It immediately intrigued me because it promised to be a deeply moving, emotional sci-fi film about two earths, employing none of the usual sci-fi garb such as aliens and UFOs… interesting! I searched and found it on VUDU, placed it in my wish-list, and finally found time to watch it late last night with my wife, whom I had successfully convinced to join me for the sake of “research.” Convincing her wasn’t a chore; she was intrigued too.
Even though the movie has been out for four years, I want to be careful not to give away an spoilers, so I’ll be brief with the synopsis. The storyline centers on a young lady whose life is filled with promise and possibility until something tragic happens, drastically altering the course of her life. At the moment of this tragedy a second earth (Earth Two) appears in the sky and she, along with all the residents of Earth One, are captivated by this new reality. Furthermore, they are challenged with the suspicion that there might be “another me” out there living a similar life but differently due to opposite actions, choices, and events.
This movie was made on an extremely low-budget. The actors even did their own makeup, and the director created the Earth Two scenes on his personal computer. However, you’d never know it. The cinematography is great, and the depth of characters and storyline are superb. Brit Marling did an excellent job playing the leading role of Rhoda. She also was the co-writer of the movie script. I’m sure you’ll recognize her from her many screen roles, namely in I Origins, and her role as Liz Garvey in the TV series Babylon.
I was immediately drawn into Rhoda’s internal struggles and the new choices she labored to make in the light of Earth Two just over head. The director Mike Cahill explains that Earth Two is “kind of this externalization of the interior world of Rhoda. She could have dealt with those ideas of the confrontation of the self just by looking in the mirror, but I felt like there was something [more] powerful about really externalizing it,” by creating a situation where there really is another version of us all. Co-writer Marling elaborated further by saying the image of another Earth provokes a primal reaction, “we all feel something [deeply] about looking back at the Earth.” Definitely, this movie is a “feeling” movie, very personal, introspective, and surprising… especially the ending!
Ultimately, the movie is successful with taking a very high, external concept and internalizing it in order to explore the inner world of who we are, and what it means to be a human. Rhoda has a strong desire to become an astronaut and explore this other Earth, but ultimately her greatest desire is realized—the exploration and discovery of herself. For me, what makes this movie so deeply emotional is the use of the doppelgänger.
A doppelgänger is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a paranormal phenomenon, and in some traditions as a harbinger of bad luck.
In pop culture, when you meet your doppelgänger, “you see each other, and then one of them has to die, and so it turns into an action adventure movie in which one of them has to kill the other,” says Marling. Another Earth “was never going to be a movie about an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style” confrontation, she adds.
Another Earth deliberately turns the usual idea of doppelgänger on its head. Says Cahill: “For me, I pushed completely the opposite [idea]. I think we, as humans, have this desperate yearning to connect, and we are so alone, no matter how many people we know, our close friends or whatever, we are ultimately alone. And I think there’s a yearning to not be alone. So, to confront someone who has your shared history and all your secrets… I think there would be the greatest amount of empathy.”
Don’t Watch It Alone
In short, this movie highlights forgiveness, hope, and our common need for redemption. I love high concepts, and I especially love when they are employed in a pop culture medium that captures our imaginations while invoking a deep sense of wonderment and awareness. This movie certainly did all of this and more for me. If you’re in the mood to be entertained and challenged, watch Another Earth. And I would advise not watching it alone. Watch it with someone you love, someone you’ve dreamed with, and been forgiven by. The impact will be greater.