Monday, June 16, 2008

In the Shadow of the Moon

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) is a documentary directed by David Sington that uses the observations and voices of most of the surviving astronauts to tell the story of the United States lunar missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Much of the footage is familiar, and the new documentary When We Left the Earth, which relies on reprocessed and high-definition movie footage, is more impressive visually. I found this film most interesting as a study of the surviving astronauts, those who went to the moon and returned. The film is built around their recollections. A few have since died, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, isn't here because he almost always declines to be interviewed, but most of the rest are here, including Buzz Aldrin. Their role in the lunar missions affected them in different ways. All feel they participated in momentous and highly significant events. Some were impressed by the lunar missions as achievements of human effort or of technology. Several found spiritual inspiration in the experience. All in one way or the other seem altered—they have lived the remainder of their lives—some forty intervening years—in the shadow of the lunar missions, in the shadow of the moon. All in their mid to late 70s, they look ashen and gray, some more able to articulate their thoughts than others, all still sobered, still amazed, by the achievement they were a part of. The visual images of this documentary don't convey the awe and wonder as much as do their eyes and facial expressions.

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