At play here's the transmutation of the body, like in Cronenberg’s movies. Sarah Loreau (Eva Green) must separate from 'The Earth' and from her normal 'Earth' body. She must become a space person. When we see her disinfecting her body with iodine, or when they make the mold of her body for her seat in the rocket, there's the sense of her becoming a space creature. "Proxima" is a distant galaxy and also what's close to us, like Sarah’s daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant-Lemesle). The film plays on the contrast between near and far, the intimate and the cosmic, which are both opposites and mirrors of one another. Sarah goes to a place where she has never been before. Physically, in the way she moves, she makes a very credible astronaut. Sarah is a fighting machine and that sat well with her character. Sarah’s’s path in the movie is to open up to emotions. She's in that equilibrium between mission and emotion, a precarious position to the extent that emotion puts the mission at risk at one point. The film contrasts the infinitesimally small and infinitesimally big. To bring space into daily life. Sarah is a superhero and mother, in a single body. The cinema does not often show those two states in a single person, as if being a hero and mother are incompatible. Female superheroes are always detached from issues of maternity or femininity in daily life.
That’s the feminist aspect of the movie, showing that a woman can be both a mother and a high-flying professional. The best practice for becoming an astronaut is being a mother. Because a mother constantly multitasks. There's this prevailing idea, a pure social construct, that a child is primarily a mother’s responsibility. At the core of the films, there's always the relationship with the body. The film shows the mother-daughter relationship units physical dimension. For example, when they’re swimming at the hotel, as if in an amniotic pool. Also, the film shows that the human body is not cut out to live anywhere other than 'Earth'; in space, it grows 10-15 cm, our airways are not made for life up there. The intensive training sessions are a point of intersection between the documentary aspect and cinematic obsessions; the body as guinea pig, strapped into machines and centrifuges. The film explores the process of separation of a mother and daughter, which resonated with the separation of the astronaut from 'The Earth'. It's a film of liberation and conciliation. Sarah completes a journey in the face of personal obstacles as a woman and mother. She overcomes her guilt complex. Her little girl also takes flight. She frees herself from the maternal cocoon. The screenplay is structured like the separation of the stages of the rocket, there are stages in the separation from 'The Earth' as well as between mother and daughter.
The real liftoff protocol includes confirmation of umbilical separation, so the metaphor is not afigment of our imagination alone. Sarah’s fighting qualities can be those of a mother, just not the kind of mother typically depicted in movies. The most difficult part is trying to reconcile the warrior side of the character, who confronts a very masculine, competitive world, with the tenderness of a mother. That's the fate of a lot of women today as they try to combine career and family life, devoting themselves equally to each. The horses symbolize the little girl’s imagination, and the idea that she remains attached to 'The Earth' while her mother has just taken off for the stars. The horses are 'The Earth'. They also represent a form of wildness, anti-conformism, that's sometimes peculiar to children. Finally, for the girl, the horses represent emancipation from her mother’s hold. Like her mother, she has come a long way to accept her mother’s departure. Her mother’s mission is part of her daily life. She's pleased for her that the takeoff went smoothly. Above all, the film is a credible, moving, very human and very modern story, which shows the turmoil of a woman torn between her passion for her work as an astronaut and her love for her daughter.
Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon) is not-always likable character. That’s the difficulty of his character. Between Mike and Sarah is an ambivalence emerges, affectionate friendship. Thomas Akerman (Lars Eidinger) is a nod toward the genuine rivalry that exists between astrophysicists and astronauts, between those who stay on the ground and those who take off in the rocket. It’s two different worlds, like cast and crew in movies. Astronauts have more bling, a greater public profile, while the scientists stay behind the scenes. Wendy (Sandra Hüller) is a kind of godmother-figure. Like Mike she needs to be loved, while maintaining the cold facade that comes with her job. "Proxima" points out that international cooperation works far better in space exploration than the geopolitical sphere. That's one of the exhilarating aspects of the shoot, and the international factor is mirrored in the makeup of the crew, which mix together French, Russians, Americans, Germans and Kazakhs. That mix of nationalities make us feel united in our shared humanity. The liftoff scene, when the rocket takes off, is awe-inspiring. The audience has a physical sense of being wrenched free of 'The Earth'. Space exploration makes us realize how fragile we're, how much we belong on 'Earth'.
"Ptoxima", is a singular and ambitious project in the context of French cinema. We're fascinated by space. With regard to space, however, American movies have swamped all others, and the goal is to make a European space movie. In Hollywood pictures, the astronaut verges on superhuman, but the research with 'ESA' shows us there's nothing more human and fragile than an astronaut. Going into space means experiencing human fragility and realizing just how attached we're to 'The Earth'. "Proxima" is more earthbound than spatial. For example, the film shows the very physical ordeal that the astronauts bodies endures. In that respect, Tarkovsky is more important than 'Hollywood' movies. The film tackles head-on everyday machismo in the space industry. Those scenes might seem to verge on caricature but they're still below real-life experiences. It’s a male environment, conceived by men for men. For example, spacesuits are weighted on the shoulders because men have strong shoulders, whereas women are stronger in the hips. Women have to work twice as hard to gain entry to this man’s world, but they mustn’t make their presence felt either.
The film pays tribute to women who've to reconcile all this, which is exacerbated, obviously, in the business of space exploration. In movies, heroines tend to be ethereal, except perhaps "Erin Brockovich". The final credits point out to the audience numerous female astronauts they've probably never heard of. There's a kind of conciliation at the end of the journey. With space exploration as the backdrop, it’s a compelling environment, which the public only knows from the outside looking in. It's a feminist film, in the sense that it highlights the audacity of a woman who dares to follow through on her passion. It's still taboo to take a year out from raising your child to fulfill your dreams.