In April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space. It was a monumental achievement. The Americans needed to one-up their Russian counterparts. To this end, in 1961, President Kennedy announced the Apollo program with the goal of putting the first man on the moon. Unfortunately, it was something the president would never live to see. But on July 20th 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon. David Sington’s documentary, In The Shadow Of The Moon charts the progress of the Apollo program, through a series of interviews with the men involved, spliced with footage of the program itself.
After I finished watching In The Shadow Of The Moon, I found myself realising how much we take this achievement for granted these days. In this age, the technological achievements are so many and happen so quickly, it’s easy to forget how little technology they had merely forty years ago. Yet they managed to fly three men over 380,000 miles and land them on that little glowing ball that sits in the night sky. As you watch the footage on the screen, and listen to the astronauts recount their tales, you really begin to appreciate what a monumental achievement it was.
The astronauts involved, Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins, Alan Bean, Jim Lovell, John Young, Harrison Schmitt, and most of the other astronauts involved in the Apollo program appear, telling of their experiences in the Apollo program, in space, and (for those who managed to get there) walking on the moon. They speak of the experience in awe, and you cant help but get sucked in. While, in terms of space, the moon is merely a small footstep away from us, in terms of human achievement, it’s a massive achievement, and none of these men take it for granted. There is a humorous section during the credits for the film where the astronauts present their rebuttal to the claims that the moon landing was faked. And watching the documentary just proves how ridiculous a claim this is.
Sadly missing from the documentary is the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. The reclusive astronaut refuses to promote his historic achievement and thus is missing from everything but archival footage. Yet the other astronauts tell his story through their own experiences. And thus, Armstrong seems even more of a legend. He seems to have some mythical status among these other legendary figures.
The footage from the period is astonishing. Despite the technological limitations, the footage is of extremely high quality, due to the measures take to preserve the film. And it’s a comforting thing to know that the footage will live on. The shots of Earth from the moon, and seeing how small it really is is a humbling thing. While on the moon, the white surface contrasting to the pitch black sky is gorgeous to observe. While it’s finished it’s run in the cinema, see this film on as large a screen as you can. The footage of the space flight is stunning and deserves a large canvas.
The documentary is a fascinating watch. In terms of human achievement, landing on the moon is really one of the greatest things we have done as humans. And despite it happening nearly forty years ago, it really is a monumental moment in human history. In The Shadow Of The Moon pretty much gives you a comprehensive look at the moon landing. It is humorous, tense, and fascinating to watch. A brillian documentary.