In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)
Additional Footage-Behind the Shadow
Featurette-Making Of-Scoring the Shadow (10.38)
Interviews-Crew-Director David Sington (8.54)
|Year Of Production||2007|
|Running Time||95:40 (Case: 100)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||David Sington|
John F. Kennedy
Edgar D. Mitchell
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||Varies|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Varies||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
It is perhaps a surprise that in 2008, when CGI can take us to any fantasy realm or distant corner of the universe, my most heart-stopping experience this year came in watching, again, that tiny capsule of Apollo 11 wend its way to the surface of the moon and eject its two passengers into history. Images of lunar landings have been repeated over the years but this documentary In The Shadow of the Moon is the first I can remember that brings a freshness and real emotion, not just to the famous landing, but to the whole moon programme.
In the Shadow of the Moon is a comprehensively researched and presented full length documentary that charts chronologically the NASA moon program. It is "presented" by moon tragic Ron Howard whose own film Apollo 13 was documentary-like in its spare, direct retelling of the moon mission that almost ended in disaster. "Presented" probably means "supported by" as this British made documentary has no commentary - it relies entirely on the occasional informative title and interviews with Apollo alumni to tell the story.
It is an inspired decision. Rather than the movie becoming a dry litany of facts and figures this is a film that tells us what it felt like to be the first in space, the first to orbit the moon and the second to walk on the surface. The effect is compelling. These men remain sharp, intelligent and possessed of remarkable stories.
The gathering is not complete. First man of the moon, Neil Armstrong, chose not to take part - a decision consistent with his desire for privacy. Truth be told he may have been embarrassed had he taken part by the level of adulation extended to him by his fellow astronauts. Others of the 24 men who have travelled to the moon do not appear but the ten that do are full of enthusiasm for their subject, which translates to a rich viewing experience.
Director David Sington is content to let the men drive the stories with their tales of challenge and triumph. This is no accident. In the interview which accompanies this film he describes the documentary process as an interesting way to work. Unlike traditional film, a documentarian doesn't really know what the film is going to be about or how it will end until all the interviews have been shot. In its narration-less style In the Shadow of the Moon is perhaps closer to the films of Errol Morris in the way that minute details and seeming irrelevancies are allowed to bubble to the surface and create meaning and emotion. The film does concentrate on the positive side of the Apollo astronauts. Although we see the failures, like the fire that killed Gus Grissom and crew and Apollo 13 are featured the controversies like the Apollo 15 "postage stamp incident" or Buzz Aldrin's UFO comments are excluded. What, for me, emerges most strongly from this film is the courage of the individuals who allowed themselves to be strapped to rockets and flung into the unknown. Sometimes this dedication cost relationships, sometimes lives were lost. Although the astronauts were aware of the politics behind the quest none of them expresses the idea that they were personally motivated by beating the "Ruskies". When Mike Collins was alone on the dark side of the moon it may be true, as he says, that it didn't worry him to be "the loneliest man in history". But it is not hard to admire the courage and resolve of a man in such an extraordinary situation.
This year (this month even) marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of NASA. There are more detailed ways to celebrate as other, longer, documentaries exist. But In the Shadow of the Moon is one of the best ways to mark the occasion.
In the Shadow of the Moon combines interview footage in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with original historical footage presented at the original 1.33:1 ratio. The widescreen portions are 16x9 enhanced.
The look of the interview footage is crisp and clear with accurate colours and flesh tones. It is without any technical defects.
The historical footage has been remastered from the original NASA films and the effect is remarkable. Colours are bright and the image is crisp without being over-processed. The filmmakers have chosen to improve the image quality without removing all the artefacts that place it in the past. So grain, some scratches and the odd blob are still there to be seen. Don't be put off. The images are amazing. Due to the rarity of the material I have rated the video quality slightly higher than I would for any other film with footage that suffers from age and damage.
There are no subtitles.
In the Shadow of the Moon carries two Dolby Digital soundtracks running at 448 Kb/s (5.1) and 224 Kb/s (2.0).
The differences are not so much in the expanse of the surround track as this film sits pretty much around the centre channel. However, the quality of the 5.1 track is to be found in the beauty of the score by Philip Sheppard. The score is exquisitely orchestrated with a variety of sounds both delicate and brash and the 5.1 track really conveys the quality of both.
However, there is nothing wrong with either track from a technical viewpoint. All the speaking parts can be heard clearly. There are no audio sync problems.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is not a Behind the Scenes feature but rather a collection of deleted scenes, 18 in all, of varying length. There is no commentary but most were probably deleted to keep the documentary better on track. All, however, are interesting. There are descriptions of the earlier Gemini Space Program, Sputnik and a bit more about walking and driving on the moon. Most interesting is when Michael Collins points out the awful truth that the astronauts were mainly test pilots and not at all suited to the public relations aspect of NASA. He could point out to the listening world exactly the velocity, trajectory and more of his craft but not how he felt about his trip. The program took its toll on marriages and nerves leaving some astronauts changed men.
Composer Phillip Sheppard is interviewed in detail regarding his scoring of the film. He is a composer of the future and his decisions are well supported and inspired. Take, for example, when the Apollo 11 launches. Instead of using a bombastic martial tune Sheppard begins with a marimba and gradually develops the sound. This is not counterpoint - it is a new way of seeing the event. Sheppard has worked with some interesting people in the past including UNKLE and David Bowie and composed the Olympic torch handover (which included Jimmy Page doing Whole Lotta Love).
One of those trailers that makes you want to watch the film again.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of this film has a commentary from the director, the editor and the archive producer as well as a couple of bits by Ron Howard. As it also includes the extra materials on our release (with the exception of the interview) I would ordinarily have to say that the Region 1 is the better product. However, as those features are all on the same DVD some may prefer the Region 4 version that has a separate DVD of the extras.
In the Shadow of the Moon is one of the most stirring documentaries I have seen for some time and deserves a space on your shelves.
The video and audio transfer is pretty good throughout and some of the historical footage looks freshly minted.
The extras are interesting and contribute to the quality of the whole package.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|