One on One: Deep Headspace

Duncan Jones
Profession: Director

Duncan Jones left philosophy to pursue film, but didn't stray far. In his new movie, Moon, astronaut Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) spends three years in lunar isolation before encountering—spoiler alert—a duplicate Sam. Though constrained by a small budget, a single set, and a core cast of one, Jones's freshman feature asks a big question: What would happen if you met another you?

Why is the question "Would you like yourself" important?

There is no relationship more important than your own relationship with yourself. If in any way the film leads people to have that little conversation with themselves, that would be really exciting.

What would happen if you were stuck on a moon base with yourself?

Pretty much what happens in the film, because there was a lot of of me in it. I've become pretty OK about myself. But it did take a long time.

Have you asked others if they would like themselves?

A lot of people seem to think they wouldn't enjoy being in their own company, which I was a little surprised by. I think they're assuming that they're more difficult to be with than they actually are. I think people on the whole are pretty sociable and good. Maybe I'm an optimist.

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Could you trick yourself? There would be a lot of "I know he knows I know..."

Maybe I'm naive, but unless I have reason to believe that someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes, I take him at face value.

You studied philosophy in college and grad school.

I considered how you might apply ethics to sentient machines. It was a little premature.

A.I. comes up in the movie.

Gerty, the computer voiced by Kevin Spacey, is actually very simple, but after three years he becomes Sam's best buddy. Everyone brings their own baggage to Gerty. I even anthropomorphize my laptop.

Why is science fiction good for exploring philosophical questions?

It takes the audience's guard down. They're much more willing to have their values questioned when they don't think we're talking about their world. You can talk about something that's incredibly close and human and personal and they'll accept it.

Do you have more thought experiments planned?

Yeah, my next film is also science fiction. Isolation is interesting to me because my dad [David Bowie] traveled a lot and I spent a lot of time on my own. So the film is about the alienation of actually being surrounded by people. It's about a character called Leo who's mute and how he finds ways to communicate—and what the world comes to expect of him. Again, it's the idea that everyone brings their own baggage.

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