Neil Up

FIRST MAN begins with a shot of the Earth seen from space. Then the word UNIVERSAL, in letters the size of subcontinents, comes orbiting around the planet before assuming a geostationary position facing us.

Then we see the crescent moon, but our view of it is immediately dissolved into ripples and we realise we’re gazing at the planetoid’s reflection in a body of water, at which point we rise up to observe the moon itself, and discover a small boy (really, though, he must be enormous) reclining in the moon’s lower horn, casting a fishing line down to our homeworld’s surface. Clouds pass across this image and the moon becomes the first letter of the word DREAMWORKS.

Thus, in just two shots, director Damien Chazelle sets up the themes of space travel between earth and moon, communication between the two, the UNIVERSAL human story, the DREAM of interplanetary travel and the WORKS needed to achieve it, as well as the phantom child who casts no reflection and vanishes as the clouds pass, a subtle reference to astronaut Neil Armstrong’s loss of a child, who he will think of on the moon’s surface.

Now THAT’S filmmaking!


3 Responses to “Neil Up”

  1. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    The rest of the movie is pretty by the numbers by comparison in my view. To me the only dramatic bit was the pilots who keep dying in early tests and the astronauts amounting to being guinea pigs for geopolitical gamesmanship but the movie plays this as some Homeric monument.

  2. I liked how the constant handheld shots give out on the moon’s surface and it’s finally still — you really feel that.

    And the acting is good, and you get both the politics and the more noble aspirations. I thought it was decent enough for its disappointing performance to be a surprise. I’m not sure what kind of movie America wants about itself just now. Pure escapism, possibly.

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