Another Earth

August 14, 2011 7 Comments

What if we could really “do over” our most painful mistakes?  Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth”  poses that question with poignancy or loopiness, depending upon the spectator’s ability or willingness to suspend alot of  detail in the service of immersion in the possibility of corrections.  What if there suddenly appeared “another Earth”  somehow  inhabited by us , but where all the bad stuff may not have happened…lost?  bored?  intrigued?….17 year old Rhoda, the film’s protagonist is headed for MIT until she unintentinnally kills a child and his pregnant mother in a drunk-driving accident.  How she attempts to make amends is the bulk of this story–“cleaning up” the mess she created for the remaining family member(the father)….oh, and there is this “Earth” in the sky, which has mysteriously appeared….and a contest to “go” to Earth 2…and an old Indian who blinds himself and pours bleach in his ears….follow?  The story unfolds in indie-style hand-held camera work and little is really answered, much less resolved…there is a cryptic ending and the film is over..lost?  bored?  Intrigued?  This is a “must see” film for those who wish that (almost) every film had an “alternate” ending that the spectator is somehow free to choose….or a life that  possessed the capacity for alternative endings regardless of the events that shape them….and then again, maybe this would not be a “must see movie” on Earth 2……on Earth 1 however, it is worth a look…..Jolyn Wagner

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7 Comments to “Another Earth”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    When tragedy strikes, you can run away or face it. At first Rhoda tries to run away, taking a job where she doesn’t have to interact with people much. Her co-worker can’t even see her; he’s blind! She musters enough courage to make an attempt to face the tragedy, but fails to carry through. Finally, she does face it, and this produces another tragedy. This time she has the courage to face the new tragedy and resolves it in a satisfying way, even if it was not the way she hoped for.
    So isn’t this the way life goes? One tragedy after another, and if we’re lucky we finally learn to muster our courage and to face and deal with the tragedies and disappointments in a satisfactory way. And then we’re done? Not quite because after we learn how to deal with tragedy, loss, and disappointment, we have to face ourselves, as Rhoda does in the end. That’s what Another Earth is for. It gives us the opportunity to face ourselves, not to do over our most painful mistakes. After all, the woman who talks to her double on Earth 2 discovers that she has done exactly what the woman did on earth. There is no chance of do-over there!

    The blind janitor who has poured bleach in his eyes then pours it in his ears. Why? Because he thinks that ultimately you must turn inward, not outward, to find yourself. There is really no external Another Earth where you can find yourself. It’s just a metaphor.

  2. Jolyn Welsh Wagner says:

    Yes to your thoughtful comments…I think Hhoda does have to face herself and the consequences of her actions in order to live..she had tried to kill herself in the snow, but also by “killing” her dreams and ambitions, cruelly working as a “cleanup” person in a place of learning…how cruel is that(also borrowed a bit from “good will hunting”, I think)….she is always trying to cleanup, but isn’t honest about her intentions etc and so the consequences are, as you say, tragic once again…I do think that the Indian is reminding us to look inward (He doesn[t want to see or hear anything about “the other earth” and so goes to extremes(so that toooo much blocking out of the external isn’t so hot either)….my favorite shot at the end of the film which I saw differently than you did…the Rhoda that our Rhoda faces was dressed differently, kind of professorial as if she HAD gone on to MIT and not caused the accident etc…so I don’t think they had the same life on both planets (which also implies that the father is up there with his undead family …..and that’s life too…of course nothing is spoken at the end, but that’s what I saw..when ia a metaphor not a metaphor? hmmmmmm..can something be a metaphor and not a metaphor too? on what planet????

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    Good point about how Rhoda2 is dressed differently than earth Rhoda. But how do you explain the fact that the woman interviewed on Earth 2 lived exactly the same life as the interviewer on our earth? How about this: you can’t change the past, but you can change the path you are on and construct a different future? The Rhoda2 earth Rhoda sees at the end represents what she could become in the future.

    Also, is it really possible for John to be on Another Earth with his undead family? A double is a duplicate, not the real thing. His family is dead. There may be a COPY on Earth2, but it won’t be his REAL family. Is it just as good? I don’t think so. Imagine that one of your sons dies, and someone offers you the opportunity to have a duplicate of him. You might take the offer, but it would at best be second best to having your actual son alive.

    Or am I being too literal, not seeing the metaphor? But then what is the proper interpretation of the metaphor when it comes to the father, John? What does the opportunity to do over mean when your family has perished? Start another family?

    By the way, I missed what Rhoda spelled out on Purdeep’s hand (the blind guy’s hand). I found online that it was “forgive.” Hope this information helps, not hurts, those who have not seen the film.

  4. Jolyn Welsh Wagner says:

    I don’t think that the Earth 2 people are actually “duplicates” any more than the Earth 1 people are duplicates of the Earth 2 folks…and how do we know that the woman interviewer had EXACTLY the same life and not just pivotal intersection? (we don’t even see her–she could sport a purple mohawk and still say the same things in some situations)…this is the ambiguity that I like about the movie (and that others mocked as just murky movie making)….I thought as well that she spelled out “forgive”…I do hope otheres will see this film…still think it’s a keeper..on Earth 1 and 2…..

  5. Bruce Russell says:

    While it is POSSIBLE that the people on Earth2 are not EXACT, but only CLOSE

  6. Bruce Russell says:

    While it is POSSIBLE that the people on Earth2 are not EXACT, but only CLOSE duplicates of people on earth, the evidence doesn’t support that interpretation. Didn’t the woman on Earth2 even buy the same trinket at Cape Canaveral when she was a child? Why that detailed agreement if the filmmaker did not want us to believe that there is exact duplication? If only close, we’d expect some differences to be indicated

    New interpretation of Rhoda2’s appearance: her life was EXACTLY like earth Rhoda’s until there was interaction between the planets. Some online say that destroyed synchronicity. After that point, Rhoda2’s path diverges from Rhosa1’s (perhaps because she was forthright with John2 earlier than Rhoda1 was with earth John). Rhoda2 then travels to earth, just as John traveled to Earth2. This interpretation incorporates BOTH exact similarity AND divergence after a time.

    Aside: whether the doppelgangers on Earth2 are exact, or only close, duplicates of earthlings, they don’t offer a real opportunity for a do-over. Why? Because they are not us and because no one can change the past. At most we can hope to encounter an exactly similar situation and to do better in it. But there are other ways to atone and make amends even if similar situations never arise.

    And have I been talking to Jolyn1 or Jolyn2? Help!

  7. CJ says:

    Just saw AE recently via Netflix. I thought it was terrific. I can honestly say that I have never in 50+ years wondered what I would say to MYSELF. Now I wonder.

    As far as exact duplicates on E1 & E2, I think the ending blows up that possibility. If Rhoda1 and Rhoda2 were exact dups, they’d simply end up swapping places. I think the ending was meant to say that synchronicity had been broken when the 2 Earth’s became aware of one another. Remember that the car crash on E1 happened AFTER the discovery of E2, therefore it’s possible the crash never happened on E2. And John2 and Rhoda2 never met. And Rhoda became a physicist. Et al. Who knows how that conversation and interaction would go between Rhoda1 and Rhoda2? I think it’d make a great sequel to AE.

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