Anyone with a passing interest in the space programme will already know the story told in David Sington's documentary, but the beauty here is in the telling. In The Shadow Of The Moon chronicles the triumphs and disasters of the Apollo space programme between 1968 and 1972. The film has no narration, relying instead on archive footage and interviews with the dozen or so men who travelled from Earth to the Moon, and (more importantly) back again.
Sington's film is as much about the shattered innocence of the 1960s as the actual mechanics of space travel. Through the testimonies of the surviving astronauts a picture gradually emerges of a nation caught between the optimism of the lunar programme and the shame of the Vietnam war. It's easy to forget that while Kennedy kickstarted the race for the Moon, the man in the White House when we actually got there was one Richard M. Nixon. Sington and his researchers have dug up some remarkable footage that brings the decade to life in zingy Austin Powers technicolour. In one brain-twisting moment of surrealism, we discover that the news coverage of the first moon landing was sponsored by Kellogs, and there is a distrubing glimpse of Nixon's unbroadcast "just-in-case" speech mourning the deaths of the Apollo 11 crew.
"A SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE"
The heart of Sington's film, though, is the dry humour and boundless humility of his interviewees. In their wise and withered faces (more fascinating than any lunar landscape), the camera finds something almost ineffable – a spirit of adventure that transcends both politics and patriotism. It's a shame that the notoriously shy Neil Armstrong couldn't be tempted out to join them.
In The Shadow Of The Moon is out in the UK on 2nd November 2007.