I love the cinema. And one of my favourite films from this year so far, has been the documentary film ‘Apollo 11’. Comprised entirely of footage shot 50 years ago, some which hasn’t been released before, it tells the story of the first manned mission to the Moon.
I almost didn’t go and see it – after all it’s a story that’s been told before. I remember watching the moon landing on television, when I was a child, and I have to say that at that time I found it a little underwhelming. I understood that I was watching history being made, but even though I tried to feel the importance of it all, it wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped it might be. We sat, staring at the television, and it seemed a very long wait until something happened – and when it did the pictures were so fuzzy it was difficult to see what was going on.
But this new film is a revelation! One of the big differences is that that the film uses footage which was brought back from the mission – not that which was transmitted at the time, and so the quality of the footage is incomparably better. It’s edited, as well, to make it more immediate. And the pictures of Neil Armstrong, climbing down from the lunar module and setting foot on the moon for the first time were sharp and clear. At last I felt the excitement and the sense of occassion that I’d wanted to feel all those years ago!
And, of course, we know more about the moon landings now. At the time, it wasn’t widely known how little fuel was left when the lunar module touched down – there were just fifteen seconds to spare before the craft wouldn’t have been able to take off again. Watching the landing, with the timer ticking away at the bottom of the screen and hearing the measured communications between mission control and the astronauts, I had my heart in my mouth. And when it was time for the perilous journey home, even though I knew full well that the lunar module had successfully reconnected with the command module, the sharp footage from each of the craft as they docked in space had me sitting on the edge of my seat, holding my breath.
So this film really changed my appreciation of an event that I remembered and thought I knew. I was moved by the immense bravery of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. I shed a tear when they returned safely back to earth. And I found the sense of wonder that had eluded me when I first watched the moon landings.
And it got me thinking. Although this is a beautiful film, it tells the same story as the one I heard when I was a child. Part of its impact now, is because I’ve changed.
And that applies to our stories too. They’re a joint effort, between reader and writer to make a world together. I rely on the reader’s imagination to help create that world, within the framework of a book. And I have to hope that readers will trust me to bring them safely home at the end. We’re in this together.
Is there a story – either true-life or fiction – that you’ve re-discovered and which has meant something very different to you the second time around?