July 6, 2009
Duncan Jones ® and actor Sam Rockwell on the set of Moon - Photo taken by Mark Tille, © Lunar Industries Ltd., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
After garnering critical praise at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals earlier this year, Moon, an independent film directed by Duncan Jones ’95, opens July 10 in theatres nationwide.
Set in the near future, Moon tells the story of Sam Bell, a man in the final days of a three-year stint working alone at a lunar mining base. Because of a malfunctioning satellite, Sam can only send and receive taped messages to his wife and three-year-old daughter back on earth. His only “conversations” are with Gerty, the base’s well-intentioned but uncomplicated computer.
“Moon is about alienation,” Jones says. “It’s about how we anthropomorphize technology; it’s about the paranoia that strikes when you are in a long distance relationship; and it’s about learning to accept yourself.
“In my mind, the golden age of science fiction cinema was the ’70s, early ’80s, when films like Silent Running, Alien, Blade Runner, and Outland told human stories in future environments. I’ve always wanted to make a film that felt like it could fit into that canon.”
The critics think he has hit that mark. The New York Times says the movie “evokes a palpable mood of isolation and paranoia,” while Richard Corliss of Time magazine called it “a searching and worthy first feature film.”
“[Jones] guides the film at a tempo that is both measured and assured,” Corliss continues, “Here, it’s clear, is a director who knows how to get the viewer on his pensive wavelength.”
Jones traces some of the issues he grapples with in Moon back to his Independent Study project at Wooster, “How to Kill Your Computer Friend: An Investigation of the Mind/Body Problem and How It Relates to the Hypothetical Creation of a Thinking Machine.”
“I majored in philosophy both at Wooster and later, in graduate school at Vanderbilt, and there are some interesting ideas in Moon that come out of lectures and studies I did with Professor Ron Hustwit and Professor Hank Kreuzman,” Jones says.
When Jones left the Ph.D. track at Vanderbilt to enroll in the London International Film School, it marked a return to one of his earliest interests.
“About 10 years ago, my dad gave me a VHS for Christmas. On it were the first few short films I shot with his help when I must have been six or seven years old. It was pretty much my favorite father/son hobby, and made use of an 8mm film camera capable of shooting one-stop animation.”
Jones did no filmmaking at Wooster, where his non-academic interests included playing rugby, working at the radio station (“playing nothing but trashy European chart music”), and editing Year One, a journal of literary and visual arts produced by first-year students.
“Wooster was a hugely positive experience for me,” Jones says. “I had had a torrid time before I came to Wooster, being asked to leave the boarding school in Scotland I had been in, and with no clear idea of what I wanted or was meant to do with my life. Wooster took a chance on me and I really felt at home there.”
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