Brit Marling tells tale of two worlds: Writing, acting in 'Another Earth'
BY GENE TRIPLETT
Like a hurricane.
That’s how Brit Marling describes the screenwriting experience she shared with director Mike Cahill that created “Another Earth,” an independent film that uses a fantastic science fiction premise to tell a story of tragedy, a dangerous love affair, self-confrontation, redemption and forgiveness.
“We found that we really had to try and become writers in order to do the things we really wanted to do,” Marling said in a recent phone interview. “I think when you’re setting out to make a movie there’s almost like this climate. I think of it a little bit like the way that certain things come together to form a hurricane. It’s all swirling around, and it’s like this calm center.
“There were a lot of things in the ether at the time, and we were listening to Dr. Richard Berendzen on tape. His work was so inspiring, because he talks about the cosmos in a sort of everybody’s-around-the-fire storytelling way. So that moved us.”
Berendzen, a Walters, OK-born scientist and former teaching assistant to Carl Sagan, is a proponent of the scientific search for extraterrestrial life. He’s also the narrator of what Marling describes as “a metaphysical romantic thriller.”
Cahill’s feature film directorial debut — winner of the 2011 Sundance Alfred P. Sloan Prize and Special Jury Prize — tells the story of Rhoda Williams (Marling), a brilliant young woman whose dreams of becoming an astrophysicist are ended when she causes a terrible accident that takes the lives of renowned composer John Burroughs’ (William Mapother) wife and son.
The tragedy coincides with the mysterious appearance of a planet that seems to mirror Earth, looming larger than the moon in the night sky. Scientists speculate this eerie “Earth 2” may harbor a reality parallel to our own, populated by other versions of ourselves.
For Rhoda, the mirror planet may hold her last hope at atoning for the tragedy she has caused, and she finds herself at the front door of the man whose life she has irrevocably changed. Not realizing who Rhoda is, John takes her in as a maid and ultimately as a lover, igniting an affair that can only end in disaster — until Rhoda gets a chance to travel to Earth 2.
“There’s something about science fiction or fantasy, or reality with a twist, that allows us to zoom in on what it means to be human,” Cahill said in a separate phone interview. “The movie couldn’t exist without that other earth, and the struggle that Rhoda goes through would remain internal. And yet with the externalizing of the other earth, with the possibility of confronting oneself, all of a sudden those emotions which exist in her mind, the possibility of having it be interpersonal, becomes very real.
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