A Subud Guy Goes to the Movies (Apollo 11)
Norman Babbit’s Movie review of the 2019 documentary, Apollo 11.
“What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!”
This first half of Hamlet’s depiction of man to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern almost says it all for me concerning this masterpiece of a film, “Apollo 11,” and what Director Todd Douglas Miller brilliantly accomplishes in putting together a multitude of disparate historical NASA records (audio and visual) into a consummate whole. What stands out is the humanity brought out through the film narrative. The quality of the technological achievement of both the making of the film, itself, and the adventure of the great drama of the actual events is employed purely to bring the viewer right into the time and the places and the human beings involved. Even though I knew what happened, as I had watched with my family as the actual events in real time unfolded in the summer week of July 16, 1969 to July 24th, 1969.
I was as gripped by this film, as I was at age seventeen, watching with wonder, not only upon the whole scale and scope of the human adventure as it unfolded on the screen, but in solidarity with my countrymen of all stripes and colors and classes, brought together with the whole world joined in awe of our human potential being lived out. I felt similar to how I’ve felt when watching one of my favorite big screen films, 2001: A Space Odyssey, that I’ve viewed tens of times, often in its 70 M format. Apollo 11 has a similar power, but even more so, because of the humanity of the motion picture and of the timeless events that made an indelible mark on those, like myself and my mother and father, who were gifted with being present for this, as it was happening!
The footage and never before seen nor heard records of the journey bring you right into the experience. The only verbal narration provide are the limited recordings of the iconic, Walter Cronkite’s television coverage. The movie just brings you right into it all. You’re right there with the technicians and technical preparations, with the astronauts training and the expectant crowds across from the launch site. Because of the enhanced, and incredibly well re-mastered video you can see on the screen, as we could not at the time, the profound emotional weight on Mission Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. The cinematography is superb beyond my expectations.
Most significant in my experience with Apollo 11, the documentary, is the sheer miracle of it all. The statement, so often made meaningless in repetition, “Awesome!” takes on a visceral reality. You see, feel and hear the miracle of humanity and the potential of what we can achieve in a unity of humankind, as this event brought the whole world together, not against a common enemy but in a visionary cause for celebration. We celebrated as a country, a nation, as people, and as a world! Miracle, indeed! I can still feel the miracle of something as perfectly executed as is humanly possible of an extraordinary endeavor, “For all mankind!”