The Plot: Digging into the film archives, this documentary explores what the moon means to us humans…
The Verdict: From the early days of cinema, directors have pointed their camera at the moon. Georges Méliès did so memorably, connecting the moon and its human explorers in his amusing 1902 short A Trip To The Moon. Since then, the moon has featured in any number of films and will be the cause of our impending doom in Roland Emmerich’s upcoming Moonfall. What does the moon represent to people though, other than the satellite which affects our tides, madness in people and the murderous behaviour of lycanthropes? The answer may be found in To The Moon, an impressionistic documentary from Tadhg O’Sullivan. Composed of film clips and archival documentary footage sourced from around the world including here in Ireland, it’s an ode to the celestial body that only twelve men have walked on.
At first glance, it might look like a cinematic representation of the moon as viewed through the lens of the film camera. There’s certainly a wealth of film material to choose from. Though, if you’re expecting clips of James Stewart lassoing the moon or Lon Chaney Jr. undergoing a hairy transformation, then you might have your expectations upended. O’Sullivan has dug deep into the film archives and plucked out a lot of pre-Space Race obscure footage which gives his film a different perspective on its subject, this ‘Earth fragment’. There are simultaneously characters and people gazing at the moon, admiring its beauty and the fact that it belongs to us. Then there are the rustic rituals of Eastern European villagers, superstitiously wary of working in the moonlight. There’s also the dream of reaching the moon and touching it. There’s even a bit of opera on a moonlit-lake.
In essence then, To The Moon is a visual poem of sorts with matching, softly-spoken poetry. It doesn’t really have a plot to speak of, other than vague title cards to connect the loosely-assembled footage. It’s therefore maddening and delightful in equal measures. Maddening in the respect that it doesn’t say anything definite about what the moon means through cinema, being content to be wispy and willowy in its intentions. Delightful in the respect that the archival footage is so obscure that it becomes an intriguing window into the past, so that the viewer doesn’t know what’s next around that dark corner. It’s a contemplative film that is very much a niche experience, but it’s not without a certain enjoyment factor if you’re in the right mood for that sort of that thing. Tom Hanks once said that he always look up at the moon and see it as the single most romantic place within the cosmos. O’Sullivan would no doubt agree, as he shoots for the moon and lands his audience softly on it. It might just make an audience gaze up at the night sky and see the moon a bit differently.