Student Critic Grace Hall reviews The Farthest (Emer Reynolds, Ireland, 2016)
The Farthest: Space in the Home Stretch
Rather than orbiting scientific calculations and biro-drawn diagrams, much buzzed documentary The Farthest finds its gravity in the human efforts and curiosities that helped launch NASA siblings Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Exploring the highs and lows of 1977’s ‘most audacious mission’, Emer Reynolds’ film recounts the success and ongoing legacy of iconic space crafts through the eyes of those who first witnessed them. From the early reluctance of head administrators to its timeless present day status, the leading probe continues to roam beyond our galaxy – accompanied only by a golden record carrying an extra-terrestrial playlist.
In discussion with experts and contributors (including engineer John Casani and screenwriter Nick Sagan), the film references both fond and sorrowful memories to guide audiences through visual archives of scrawled notes, press releases and behind-the-scenes test footage. However, its most gripping imagery is to be found in photographs that provide incomparable portraits of our solar system. Playfully editing images with eclectic music, The Farthest pairs thoughtful skyward shots with spirited interviews and snazzy planetary close-ups to truly dazzling ends.
Although the discovery of outer space is praised for uniting the world’s population, the documentary approach contradicts this emphasis by focussing on American experiences. From the celebration of a Chuck Berry performance to the tragedy of the Challenger rocket explosion, the significance of the Voyager Programme is placed in a decidedly US nationalist context. Perhaps it is still sweating from the Space Race. While its patriotic mission sometimes threatens to eclipse its other accomplishments, The Farthest leaves infinite room for inspired story-telling and stunning cinematography.
Grace Hall is 22 and studies Film and Media at Queen Margaret University.