Still from Moon, 2009, Directed by Duncan Jones, Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics

Still from "Moon," 2009. Directed by Duncan Jones, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

“The peculiarity of the self is a monopoly commodity determined by society; it is falsely represented as natural.” – Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Englightenment

Moon (2009), directed by Duncan Jones, is a reiteration of such iconic science fiction films as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (1972), and Blade Runner (1982). This is not unintentional: in Moon’s press kit, the director admits that he has, “always wanted to make a film that felt like it could fit into that canon.” To this end, Jones worked with Bill Pearson, the supervising model maker on Alien (1979), and shot the film at Shepperton Studios in London, where both Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick made sci-fi masterpieces.

When compared to Kubrick or Scott, then, Jones’ direction is decidedly conventional. He prefers to repurpose, recombine, and/or directly steal aspects of these earlier works rather than embody these directors’ restless “genius.” Moon is relevant to our contemporary moment because of this reiteration, rather than in spite of it. This moment might be characterized in terms of the contingent or the ephemeral, rather than the absolute or the timeless. In this way, Moon does not aim to transcend its predecessors, but instead desires to reanimate these canonized works at any cost.

A similar struggle is enacted by the protagonist of Moon, Lunar Industries employee Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). Sam/Sam longs to realize himself as a subject amongst the fragments of Moon‘s late capitalist world. Here individuals are controlled and manipulated (i.e. de-subjectified) in order to produce profits. The means of this manipulation are a variety of oppressive technologies, from a robot companion named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) who communicates in “emoticons,” to the repetitive pop music blaring from Sam’s clock radio.

As with anyone, it is difficult to tell if Sam’s actions and choices are truly free in any sense.  He seems less a human being than a simulation of one. A clone is to a human like the Moon is to the Earth.

“Even when the public does – exceptionally – rebel against the pleasure industry, all it can muster is that feeble resistance which that very industry has inculcated in it.” — M.H. & T.A.

Before attempting a daring escape, Sam lays an earlier generation to rest on the lunar surface. From my seat in the theater, I felt as if I were burying my own father, now exhausted and confused from a lifetime of work. Jones’ father is none other than musician David Bowie, and this scene signals a transition to a new wave of artist/soldiers.

The ending is disappointing, but perhaps purposely so.

“The paradise offered by the culture industry is the same old drudgery.  Both escape and elopement are pre-designed to lead back to the starting point.” — M.H. & T.A.

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