June Butler plays among the stars with Tadhg O’Sullivan’s epic elegy To The Moon.

Director Tadhg O’Sullivan’s epic elegy To The Moon is a transcendent and wonderful piece of cinema. O’Sullivan breathes life into a sometimes unnoticed elliptical body by endowing it with shimmering luminescence, ultimately allowing its existence to be acknowledged through the eyes of reverence. 

Using dozens of spoken and visual clips, O’Sullivan takes viewers on a journey to hailing the moon in all of its aspects. Young lovers gaze and breathlessly avow their feelings for one another. Heroes stop and muse on its beauty. A teenager and her grandmother exchange old wives tales about not allowing moonlight fall on spun yarn as they spin looms in the dusk. All levels are pondered – the rituals of its pale fascination, how its shadow can spell foreboding and grim recognition. Sorcery and magic abound. Wolves howl, humans sigh. Those who gaze upon its exquisiteness are bound to hypnotic rapture. 

The ebb and flow of moods and tides are linked to the moon. Using a number of cues, O’Sullivan casts a spell of allure as waves swell and approach. An endless to and fro of ceaseless restless liquidness. The stages of the moon are followed – from new to wane. From waxing gibbous to full. A new moon brings a clean start, rebirth, and cleansing. The first quarter moves action, divination, creativity and calm into human consciousness. Crimes are witnessed and felons exposed. People living with a mental health issue are known to react more strongly to a full moon than to a waning one. In 400 B.C., physicians and philosophers felt that behavioural changes in humans could be directly attributed to the lunar cycle of the moon. The term ‘lunacy’ and ‘lunatic’ are derived from this notion of mood alteration. O’Sullivan lends these ideas to moving images of people in the throes of emotional disturbance. And in doing so, he casually links the moon to an unbalance, a distortion of human sway.   

The film shows clips of people sleeping – their eyes rapidly flickering to the pace of REM. A full moon is associated with less deep slumber, followed by REM latency. By this it is meant that a full moon can cause retardation of the REM stage so that it takes longer to reach this point and sleep is measurably disrupted. 

The director demonstrates endless fascination with each and every element directly or indirectly linked to the moon. At times, the entity is portrayed as an old lady – perpetuating the concept that the moon is female. On other occasions, a lovelorn young woman bewailing the loss of her affections, sings a sad lullaby and pleads with the moon for the swift return of her love. Authoritatively, like a gently persuading parent, the moon is the guide of explorers and travellers for without it, the stars cannot be divined.  

O’Sullivan has brought the viewer’s attention into full focus on something that is always there but rarely noticed or commented upon. In one shown clip, a narrator asks if the moon we see now was the same moon witnessed centuries ago and thousands of years before that again. Without O’Sullivan’s steady directorial hand, something that is observed almost every night (and days on end if you happened to be Ernest Shackleton in his last trip to the Antarctic), in some form or another, would not be heeded. The moon causes the tides. She carries the traveller and soothes the child. The moon provokes its secrets and prolongs the tranquil. 

Linda Buckley and Amanda Feery have imagined a beautiful soundtrack to accompany the film.  

We are indebted to Tadhg O’Sullivan for his soulful ode to a body that binds the softest of shadows with the medium of indelible memory. 

To The Moon is in cinemas on 26th November.

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