Fifty years ago people landed on the moon. This sentence in recent months we heard a lot of times, did not arouse my emotions. Not because fifty years is a big time perspective (less than a hundred years, it's recently - as my father once told me), but because in my lifetime I watched humanity less and less eagerly going into space. Rather, the slogan of the decade was - let's cut NASA's budget and not "Reach for the stars" and although everyone looks at Mars with hope, in my lifetime no one walked on the moon.
That is why I went to the documentary - created on the occasion of the 50th anniversary - Apollo 11 without great emotions. I think the cosmos is fascinating and I love all the information about new observations or discoveries, but still - we flew to the moon, what can be interesting in this. I honestly admit - how many people who think they know what historical events looked like - I was very wrong. My rooted slogan "flight to the moon" did not take into the idea of how complicated, precise but above all - how once more complicated but also extremely interesting in itself this journey was. Fortunately, I found myself in a cinema, which - in an emotional way - meant that today I can safely say that it's hard to find something more fascinating than even those close space travel.
Todd Douglas Miller's film is a movie composed primarily of a huge amount of pre-existing documentary materials. The flight to the moon took place in a decade of television triumph and you can see that everywhere where you could appear with the camera, the Americans - with the camera appeared. The amount of material used by the filmmakers is impressive - some of the materials have never been shown before, some - such as recordings from the deck of Apollo are quite well known. I must admit, that I was shocked at how well this travel was documented. To tell the truth, I was honestly convinced that at least some of the material was shot as a reconstruction by the filmmakers. But as they provide material - all we see is documentary material. It is really amazing - because we have photos from almost every stage of the journey - from takeoff to landing on the moon. There is no additional narrative in the film except that of the times (from radio or television) and radio communication between flight control and astronauts. There are also no talking heads or additional interviews. It's a great way to make us feel in the middle of events as if we've been moved 50th years into the past. Of course, the fact that only archival materials were used does not mean that we are not dealing here with a rather precisely constructed narrative. The assembly of individual parts is impressive and the combination of images with communication from flight control gives the impression as if we were watching materials specially shot to make them the perfect basis for radio communication.
The film itself is primarily focused on showing us two elements of history. One of the same venture as a flight to the moon. We start the story on the start day a few hours before the rocket is launched. We do not learn much about training or the technical preparation for the undertaking. Participants of the flight are presented to us quite scoutly (though in a phenomenal way - I will not tell you). The main subject of interest, is the flight itself and this is what we follow. The creators show us key moments, upset people responsible for the next stages of the journey. At the same time, we get to know astronauts moods a bit better - their surprising freedom and even letup but also professionalism (Buzz Aldrin's pulse at the moment of launching the rocket indicates that he is a man of absolutely iron nerves). The authors of the film are not interested in the everyday life of the flight (we do not get the answer what astronauts ate or how they used the toilet) but its technical aspects. And with what precision this undertaking required - both landing and return. Technically, we don't get much explained here, but after watching the film, there is no doubt as to how the subsequent phases of the flight went, where the most likely failure and when it was getting really dangerous. Interestingly - the flight and return are treated quite loosely - after the first tense sequence of launching astronauts we jump a few days forward to deal with the moment of landing. This makes the whole story very compressed and told extremely efficiently.
The second topic that appears almost equally, is the political and social significance of flight. Among archival materials not related to Apollo 11 itself, we have Kennedy's speech here, which gave impetus to work on this type of space flight. We can also listen to Nixon's phone talk and see American crowds of spectators who gathered at the cape to watch the rocket launch. These elements seem to be key to telling the truth about spaceflight. That although Americans landed on the moon in the name of all mankind, Earthly politics, social expectations, and international conflicts were very responsible for space flights. Among the beautiful presidential words, or astronaut messages about peace and the unification of humanity, there are tones of cold war rhetoric in which both sides of the great world dispute brought peace and happiness to humanity. Anyway, let's not hide - thinking about the future of space flights, you can not forget that they will decide about our conquests, not scientists or dreamers fascinated by space, but politicians - especially those holding the budgets of states and space agencies. At the same time, it's interesting because the film shows the difference between the astronauts language - enthusiastic, witty, sometimes surprisingly carefree, and such hard and cliche speech of politicians. As if two worlds met.
Apollo 11 looks amazing. There are moments when thanks to infographics (the only way the film fills in the gaps between recordings or clarifies what is happening) we fully understand what happened during the flight - especially the moment of landing on the moon - which was more dramatic than I knew (due to problems with the lander in the chosen place) - it is so realized that I got caught myself thinking "what will happen if they fail"? which of course is an example of how well the filmmakers play with our emotions. Anyway, the production has perfectly selected music that deepens the feeling that everything is still uncertain and something can happen from start to return. The documentary is suspenseful like any other production. It should be noted that the creators have allowed themselves to a few small inaccuracies - but from what I saw - they do not relate to key elements of the space mission. In one place, we listen to a rather funny dialogue regarding the study of the vital functions of one of the astronauts. The film shows us during the sequence of flight to the moon when this incident occurred during the return. This is more or less the level of inaccuracy.
I have to say that while watching the movie I was struck by one thing which is not cosmic at all. Well, it's actually a production without women. There was no woman on spaceship board that was flying to the moon, and there were no women among the scientists, engineers and mechanics shown to us in the archival materials. Of course, from time to time you can see a woman in the background, but you can see how incredibly masculine the world of space flight was. This does not mean that women did not contribute to the conquest of space - we have information that the achievements of women have made it possible to fly to the moon - but in these documentary materials you can see only men. It is also interesting because there is no such world anymore - one where in NASA's flight control center you cannot see a single woman. For me, it's such an interesting social overtones of this production - showing that, a lot has changed a lot - also in our perception. Because probably a dozen or so years ago, I wouldn't pay attention to how homogeneous the flight control team was.
Due to the fact that we are talking about flying into space and watching really amazing photos taken during the flight and on the moon - I recommend watching a movie at the cinema. Especially since it was made for the IMAX shows - which means that one of it main tasks was to draw viewers into the very center of the cosmic venture. It often seems that documentary productions can be watched peacefully at home, because they are not so spectacular, but personally I have the impression that this cosmic scale of the enterprise really deserves to be watched on the cinema screen. Then you can feel even more like a participant in a space flight or like one of those incredibly focused employees of the flight control center. And it is really worth it - not only because you know more about flying to the moon itself, but also because this production awakens in you a much needed longing for great projects that can take us to places we have not been yet. Anyway, it's impossible not to think about what they would look like today - with technologies unavailable half a century ago - flights to the moon.
Apparently, work is already underway on the space program, which before it brings us to Mars, will allow us to stand on the moon again after many years. I do not hide I'm waiting for it. Not because I want to escape from the Earth, but because I would love to really witness such an event that allows us to think about what humanity can achieve, and how far we can go thanks to science, determination and curiosity of the world. Looking at these crowds gathered at Cape Canaveral I felt jealous, because I would also like to be able not to look at the launch of the rocket but to wait for such a human achievement in traveling to the stars. And I hope that awaits us. Though again - as the movie reminds perfectly, we are usually led by political necessity than scientific curiosity. Although looking at the tensions in the world around me I have the impression that the moon is a solution.