This article contains First man spoilers
He sits there in the distance, planted and proud. But it's only once you've seen the unnerving ending of Damien Chazelle First man that it becomes evident how the "controversy" of the American flag is actually manufactured. After all, the flag is obviously visible following the small step of Neil Armstrong towards the dust of the moon, as it is throughout the life of the stoic astronaut, from the beginning of the film with his son solemnly lifting him out of your house, until you decorate the room at the end. where the new national hero of Gosling and Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) see a broadcast that echoes the immortal words of President John F. Kennedy about the American aspiration.
However, on the moon, the flag is not the point of the image. And now that the spoiler barrier has fallen, we can clearly say why. While Gosling spoke in the summary about "human achievement" last month, what he means specifically is not the national glory of success, but the personal anguish of fulfilling his individual dream. Throughout First man, the silent and dignified Armstrong has longed for, but never vocalized his deep desire to become the man of the moon. And yet, once he's on that barren rock, all he lost to get is intermingled and then overwhelms the emotions of this intensely personal man.
Armstrong's first step, a moment that will resonate in the history of humanity whenever we remember our history, is meticulously recreated in First man, complete with vocal inflections. However, the real ending is what happens after those ghostly footsteps are permanently imprinted on the moon rock. The music, at the same time triumphant in its use of another world of the theremin instrument and melancholy in its auditory cry, goes back to the first time we heard the theme: it is the piece of music that Justin Hurwitz wrote for Neil Armstrong while watching his daughter without being able to do anything. Karen (Lucy Stafford) vanished. Here he returns to play with a touch more noticeably strange and thoughtful, but still illuminates where Armstrong's mind is, even before his solar visor is lifted.
The only time it shows Armstrong raising his visor and seeing the moon with his own eyes is when he says goodbye. Goodbye to his passion, goodbye to his true mania for this orbital object and goodbye to the losses he has left to get here. Goodbye to Karen. She drops Karen's bracelet, a jewel that she gave to her daughter when she was sick, and kept it in her study when it was time to bury her in a ravine.
We did not see the placement of the flag, because the placement of the bracelet is much deeper in the story that tells Damien Chazelle. Maybe more than any of his films before this, including the Oscar winner Lash Y The earth, First man It assumes that human achievement has a great suffering cost. And for Neil buttoned, that suffering equals an ocean of pain whose horizon only becomes clear when Karen's bracelet disappears along the dark side of the moon.
It is at this moment, where we come to understand all the guilt and shame that has driven Neil, as well as anger. This is not in terms of a discernible shame that he could have done something else to save his daughter, but in the sense that he could not figure out how … and then compartmentalized that helplessness, such as how to place a bracelet on a desk. This is a line from the film, although it is a bit stealthier than Neil's inability to talk to his wife Janet (a fantastic Claire Foy) and her children about the dangers of space travel.
At the beginning of the film, the United States Navy denies Neil that he was currently flying for the possibility of taking a break to look for a specialist in Karen's brain tumor. It is true that no medical procedure, especially in the early 1960s, could have spared him, but the inability to attempt it implicitly pursues Neil to the moon. He never again pronounces his name in the image after his death, but the visible way in which Neil is a man who can solve the technical challenges of preventing the Gemini 8 space capsule from spinning at dizzy levels, or how to withstand technical failures. of a flight test X-15: suggests a man whose life is based on the practical resolution of problems.
When the problem can not be solved, either by the literal tumor of your daughter or by the more emotional pain that your death creates, there is nothing to fill that void but your work and your ambition. Therefore, the two are intimately related to each other for the rest of the movie. During a funeral for a couple of fellow astronauts, Armstrong is obsessed with the visions of the child he will not name. His wife knows that this is the specter that her soul possesses, since she asks Ed White (Jason Clarke) if Neil ever mentioned Karen. The answer is obviously not, but that is the difference between Neil's ability to attend four funerals in a year at Edwards Air Force Base and his full breakdown years later, where he leaves his own wife in a memorial .
In the next scene, Ed finds Neil standing alone staring at the moon. In Neil's mind, Karen and the moon have become synonymous: two spirits that propel him. You may lose yourself as a distraction in your desire to be the one that first crosses its surface, but it is more likely to connect you because one is a problem that you know you can overcome, and the other is one whose lack of Answers will be with him for the rest of his life. He will make the moon his because he can not reconcile Karen's memory with his absence. That's why he outright ignores Buzz's boasts of taking his wife's jewels to the moon to make them more valuable. Neil, of course, wears jewels there, but not to bring them as souvenirs; he leaves it as a monument of what he has lost and won.
This returns to a theme in all four Chazelle films. Despite being only 33 years old, Chazelle has become one of the most talented and distinct voices of modern Hollywood. Each of his films, mainly the three most recent, covers the agony and the ecstasy of achievement.
In LashAndrew of Miles Teller sacrifices everything to pursue his obsession with becoming a master of jazz drums. The pain is much more apparent since his teacher in a fictional stand-in for Julliard, J.K. The Simmons Fletcher takes him through hell and takes him to the point of literal self-destruction: Andrew ends up in a car accident while running to the Fletcher stage, looking for an approval that will never come. But it is still Andrew's internalized drive that forces him to ruin relationships, including a budding romance with a new girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) and a close closeness to his father (Paul Reiser). However, Andrew persists even after professional sabotage by Fletcher, because achievement is everything, especially when it is the only thing left.
The earth I took a more nuanced study of this when the failed romance became the center of a nostalgic musical starring Sebastian Gia and Ryan Stone, Emma Stone, Mia. Both are driven by creative desires: Sebastian wants to create an elite jazz club that evokes what he perceives as the golden age of the genre and Mia wants to become a movie star like the one of yesteryear that has been idolized since childhood , and that mutual desire unites them and then separates them. Ultimately, the film covers the artifice of the narrative reviving one of the oldest and most revered fantasies of the cinema, the musical, but unites it with the bittersweet reality.
The end of The earth it is about the comfort and necessity of our fantasies, whether in movies or in our own personal lives, as embraced by a sequence of exuberant dreams shared by a Mia and Sebastian meeting briefly. It is of the life that they could have had, but reluctantly they gave up for their more complicated and disordered realities. They achieved their dreams and got lost in the process, even the emotion of what they left behind remains.
First man Cement this thematic anguish and zeal, that connects all the films. Sharper and deeper, Neil Armstrong seeks his own achievement, one of a grounded reality that is as solid as rockets from which he will literally rise above the clouds. While Mia and Sebastian dance between a jeweled sky, Armstrong flies through it without a sense of metaphor or fantasy. Even so, that intangible pain of what is hidden in his mind remains. It is a pain that compels him as relentlessly as his desire, and a sense of loss that he can not move his arms as well as Mia and Sebastian do to each other in a waltz. There is no artifice in it releasing Karen's bracelet on the moon, only the sense of a man accepting a price paid for a dream reached, and whose receipt is entrusted to one's lonely company. But in the end, when he gets home, he can connect with a wife he has always kept at his fingertips, even if the technical details of his accomplishment (like the glass of a decompression chamber) still stand between them.
It's a shrewd shipment that is bigger than any fake jingoist's slight complaint. He also plants a banner in the cinematographic landscape, marking Chazelle as one of the greats of his generation.
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David Crow is the Editor of the Film Section at Den of Geek. He is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter. @DCrowsNest.