Call yourself a space fan?

If you do, and haven’t either seen In the Shadow of the Moon or made plans to do so – hang your head in shame!

Seriously, one of the best things I’ve seen at the cinema in ages. Ages and ages.

Take as many of the Apollo astronauts as are still alive (as far as I can tell; except Armstrong, who has apparently been basically a recluse almost since we got back to terra cognita), and make them talk about what it was like becoming an astronaut, flying in space and to the moon, and being home again. Splice this with genuine, rarely-seen before footage, and you have a spellbinding nearly-two-hour movie.

There’s no interviewer shown, so it’s just the blokes in their own words (and it is, by its nature, very blokey – there’s maybe two women who speak in the whole thing, and they’re in interviews from the sixties). All the men are given identical, nondescript backgrounds behind them – and they’re all only shown from the torso up. It’s almost like they’re floating in space, or outside of real time – which sounds daft, but bear with me: they’re utterly divorced from now – they only exist with relation to the space programme; they don’t interact with anyone except the viewer; and there’s nothing to date the film, except their clothes which are utterly nondescript as well. It was a fascinating way of compiling them.

The footage shown… well, I had to watch until the end of the credits to make sure it was all genuine NASA footage, with no CGI, because I’ve got a bit cynical in my old age. But, apparently, it was all real – and it was awesome. And so much that I, at least, had never seen! Views looking out as the stages separate – the moon buggies – that Earth-rise… I got goosebumps at several points, it was all just so beautiful. And there’s real audio too – Armstrong’s famous bit, of course, but also stuff from inside the command module (footage from there, too): it was almost funny listening to Jim Lovell’s voice, because I could almost recite his words along with him c/o Apollo 13. And I really did get goosebumps when they showed the first men who went around the moon – Apollo 8 maybe? – and they read from Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.[1]

Probably the person who was most interesting to listen to was Michael Collins – the poor sucker who got stuck in the Command Module, while Neil and Buzz went walking. He was fascinating, and a great speaker. Eugene Cernan, too, was also great… actually they all were, pretty much.

I cannot stress it enough: if you like this sort of thing, you really should try to see it on the big screen. Yes, it will be OK on DVD – but some of that footage just looks so much more impressive when it’s huge![2]

[1] And then to hear that some woman sued them, when they got back to Earth, for mixing church and state… hilarious!
[2] We sat in the second row, in a tiny little cinema… it was insane, but very cool.

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