By Robert Barlow
Are we alone in the universe? That is a question we have been asking since we first looked up into the night sky and saw millions of bright lights sparkling down on us.
With their film Another Earth, co-writer and director Mike Cahill, and co-writer and star Brit Marling take that question to the next level by wondering if there exists a parallel universe in which “duplicates” of ourselves lead lives as we do – with a few small differences.
In Another Earth, Rhoda Williams (Marling), a bright young woman accepted into MIT's astrophysics program, aspires to explore the cosmos. A brilliant composer, John Burroughs (William Mapother), has just reached the pinnacle of his profession and is about to have a second child. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes and the lives of these two strangers become irrevocably intertwined. As events in the film take place, the duplicate Earth gets closer and closer to our planet.
At its core, Another Earth is about existence and the human condition. It’s about the mistakes we make and the lessons we learn. The film is science fiction, but both the science and the fiction exist simply as background elements to an emotionally engaging story.
This is what makes the film so effective. There are no laser-blasting guns or giant starships – just a question of the significance and possibilities if such a parallel universe exists.
I have seen Another Earth twice now and it is difficult to discuss without giving too much of the plot away. Like any great work of science fiction, the film needs to be experienced with an open mind. If you can do this, both the “discovery” scene and the last few moments of the film will leave you thinking long after the credits roll.
Another Earth will be shown at the Little Theatre on Monday, March 31 at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a discussion on the topic of parallel universes hosted by Adam Frank, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester and science blogger for NPR.
Frank is a United States physicist, astronomer and writer. His research focuses on computational astrophysics with an emphasis on star formation and late stages of stellar evolution. His popular writing has focused on issues of science in its cultural context, including issues of science and religion and the role of technology in the human experience of time. He is a co-founder of National Public Radio’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture Blog and a frequent contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered.
Another Earth is the third installment in the Little Theatre’s series, Science on Screen! Tickets are $8.