Title: Spaceship Earth
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Matt Wolf
Starring: John Allen, Abigail Alling, Margret Augustine
Runtime: 1 hr 53 mins
What It Is: In 1991, a collective of eight people gather themselves into isolation in the self-made building they call the Biosphere II. The event gathers flocks of media and fascinated onlookers as they survive separate from the outside world by their own provisions and resources, maintaining interest and enrichment through the upkeep of an ecosystem consisting of plants and animals and people alike, connected. As many see it as a foolish experiment, a media stunt or false science in the reference to space travel and seeing what it would be like living separate from the world, the aspirers soon find themselves having to save face and look for resourceful ways to survive as things begin to fall apart.
What We Think: It was really quite unfortunate that I had missed this one at Sundance. This idea and story have always intrigued me, sounding like an alluring piece in the history of man chasing after utopia and the lengths we will go to taste it. It’s a sort of troubling account of this intelligent group of dreamers, people with the drive to create from the ground up and build a new world themselves. It’s the kind of aspiration that you’re taught to strive for as a kid, basically. “Reach for the stars, read, you can do anything you put your mind to…” — and then reality kicks in, the trigger to adulthood is the realization that that isn’t always enough. For the project Biosphere, it was a bittersweet ship to watch sink. I think successes certainly came out of it and the idea of environmental care and how it comes into play in our human ecosystem is important, especially when we’re thinking about our word and possibly having to inhabit another. The idea is absolutely exciting if not seductive. Watching this documentary with such keen voices from the team members themselves, supported by what seems to be a massive amount of footage either media or home-video-related, you can see really just how seduced they were, and how anyone would be, by this tremendous project. You don’t want to see it fall apart, you want them to succeed because that would be the ultimate achievement: proving that we can be a larger part of the environment, patch the ecosystem up, and live comfortably along with it. But of course, Murphy’s Law catches up with them, as it does. Nonetheless, it’s inspiring to watch and observe the effort and how it came into play in the physical and mental states of the crew.
Our Grade: B, I would certainly recommend this film–the amount of supplementary historical footage that you see of the crew actually working and being themselves, playing scientist, playing thespians (no–literally, they’re thespians), makes you feel like you’re right there alongside them trying to manifest this collective dream. The score is lovely and orchestral in the classic scene, bringing about both the sense of wonder and nostalgia as well as melancholy. All the interviews recounting the story block by block are compelling as they are telling. This is a film that says a lot about the struggle to balance society in the fight for environmental stability as well as recounting a stranger little pocket of time in history.