Reality is not easy to explain, yet Duncan Jones created Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) to try to define the term. The story takes us through the short life of a clone named Sam Bell and the conflict he faces when his identical clone appears on the space station that was previously only inhabited by Sam. Both clones deal with the question of reality by evaluating the world in which they reside. This plotline, along with the time setting of the film and Jones’ use of the miniatures, help answer the problem of actuality. In the end, we understand that reality lies in the beliefs of the people involved.
Sam Bell believed that he was real. Not only did he believe that he was real, but the memories Sam had of earth kept him sane by reminding him of who he truly was. However his perception was shattered when the second clone appeared on the space station. So, his own reality changed. Before, he had believed that the memories which were implanted into his mind was his past life and therefore everything around him was based off those memories. However, when the second Sam appeared, he realized that he had actually only existed for three years and everything around him was all he had ever known.
The two continued to discover their world and decide exactly who they were and what to do with their lives. A large amount of information they had previously believed to be reality was actually false. For example, they were told that the communication device had been damaged almost to the point of failure, only to realize later that it had never been damaged at all.
As the two Sam’s continue to find and reveal bits and pieces of themselves, they start to formulate a plan to change their reality. So, their reality was what they knew about themselves and what they could do with the world that was real to them. As the audience, we are led to believe the same information as the characters in the story. Duncan grabs hold of our perceptions and manipulates them in order to surprise and change what we believe about the context of the story.
When does the story take place? This is a question that many people ask about the plot, yet the answer is never found. By doing this, Duncan Jones allows for our minds to ponder and consider the existence of this exact story in the real world. Yes, some parts seem a little too fictional (the clones, the space station on the moon), but how far away are we actually from achieving technologically advancement of this quality? Moon was once screened as a part of lectures at NASA in Houston, and the question of technological reality was a common one. One of the questions asked was the reason for the station being a stationary and not a landing craft that could take off. Jones stated, “Well, in the future I assume you won’t want to continue carrying everything with you, you’ll want to use the resources on the moon to build things”. This was followed by a woman adding, “I’m actually working on something called Mooncrete, which is concrete that mixes lunar regolith and ice water from the moon’s polar caps”. So maybe this idea of a space station on the moon is not so far away after all.
By researching relevant and near future technologies, along with the absence of a date, Jones has allowed for the audience to ponder whether or not this film could become a reality or if it is even a reality now. By playing with the viewer’s sense of the present, he allows for those watching to deal with the same question of reality that the characters are dealing with in the film.
There is a common practice where filmmakers will make reference to cinema in order to question the validity or purpose of cinema. Jones finds a clever way to do exactly this. The original Sam spent most of his free time aboard the space station building a large miniature of his hometown, which is a great illustration of the same work that Jones made in order to create the landscape of the moon. All of the scenes that show the moon are comprised completely of miniatures. Even the vehicles that Sam drives are miniatures. This is a common technique used by filmmakers to create special effects which could not be created with life-sized objects.
What is the purpose of inputting his technique into the plot of the film? Within the story of Moon, the miniature that Sam took so long to work on was eventually destroyed by the second Sam when the two began to argue. If we connect the destruction of the miniature to film itself, which Jones intends for us to do, then we can conclude that film should be uprooted and put on trial because cinema plays with our sense of what is true. Film forces us to assume one fact about a story, which could be false, and then manipulates our thoughts and perceptions. This is the connection that Jones was able to make with the miniatures in the film and the use of miniatures in the creation of the movie. Therefore reality in a film is merely what we perceive it to be, even though it may be something entirely contrasted.
Reality is hard to determine, yet is easy to see. Through the use of miniatures, the presence of the clones, and the vague setting in Moon, Jones is able to prove to us that reality is merely what we believe it to be. As our lives change, reality will change, and we will adapt, just like Sam Bell adapted when his perception of his world changed.
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