The Dish 「月のひつじ」

2002年 6月 03日
作者: Andrew "Nick" Nichols

出演者:サム・ニール 、ケヴィン・ハリントン 、トム・ロング
1969年、NASAが打ち上げたアポロ11号のあの感動的な人類初の月面歩行を生中継したのは 実はオーストラリアの片田舎のアンテナだったなんて 誰が想像したであろう。 この映画は あの歴史的瞬間の感動を緊迫感と共に甦らせてくれる必見の作品である。

One of my earliest childhood memories is of being taken out of class as a six-year-old and being rushed along with all the other students into the school hall. We were instructed to sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the small semi-rural school’s only black and white television and told we were going to watch the most important event in our lives. Attending a Catholic school staffed by devout nuns who had thoroughly imparted to us the church dogma, I remember anticipating Jesus’ second coming was about to be broadcast, the only life altering event that could have prompted such a lofty statement from the pious Sister Mary. I also remember feeling elated when it turned out we would actually be watching man’s first steps on the Moon, something we had all been anticipating for weeks, even more than the most reverent child’s anticipation of the second coming.

There are few events from the last century more memorable than the moon landing of Apollo 11. The grainy images beamed from the surface of the Moon of Neil Armstrong’s first step and the static filled words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” are icons of that time. “The Dish” is a recreation of that event from a totally fresh perspective.

The setting is Parkes, a small rural town in the Southeast of Australia, and home to the then largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the “dish” from the title and serves not only as the focus of the movie’s events, but also as a metaphor for the events that unfold; it is cutting edge technology located in the middle of a paddock surrounded by sheep. Selected as a key backup relay station for radio and video images from the Apollo 11 capsule and moon-lander to mission control in Houston, and from there to viewers around the world, the small pastoral community is sent into a near frenzy over the glory that they feel they have been given. It is this contrast of the high-tech and the rustic that fuels the abundant humor in the movie as well as illustrating the central theme of the maturing of a generation witness to the event.

Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) is the chief controller of the dish and ever-calm pivot for a small team of oddball intellectuals set to handle the task of making sure the signals get relayed to mission control. Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton) is the square-jawed crew-cut NASA representative sent to oversee their work and provides a clear contrast to the provincials.

Ahead of the scheduled moonwalk things don’t go as planned, as one would expect knowing the ultimate success of the mission and its broadcast, and the crew out at the dish find themselves with a power outage that threatens to take them permanently off line. Punctuated with a delightfully funny episode involving the US ambassador visiting the dish at this moment and unaware that the space capsule is actually off line, this is one of the many memorable scenes in the movie. Only through their efforts as a team and quick thinking bring their dish back into the grid, and their reputations back in line.

Based on the true events, much of the scenes are of course artistically fictitious, but the real moment for the characters and the history of Parkes is when the astronauts in the lander ask mission control for permission to bring the scheduled moonwalk ahead several hours. This leaves Parkes as the only antenna in the world in a position to receive the signals, just as gale force winds whip up around the dish, stressing its tolerance to four times its official limits. For a scene we all know the outcome of, it is actually a great moment of tension, and the movie as a whole is a true ‘feel good’ story in the best sense of the description.

Widely available in rental shops throughout Japan, this is one movie I can recommend to everyone without reservation. For me, it goes beyond the obvious nostalgia I’ve already shown, but is a very funny Australian movie with more than enough originality and good clean humor to please all. Don’t miss it!