There are so many things about this video that I enjoyed. First, the layering of this film is very different than any other that we’ve watched so far. The story of the Voyagers, and the romance between Carl Sagan and Ann Dryan is a seemingly perfect backdrop to Penny Lane’s own love story, and embodies all the complications and risks that go along with love. I’m fascinated by the way that she was able to interweave these two things together so seamlessly, and so intuitively. She tackles some really heavy stuff here: commitment, love, existentialism; and she doesn’t examine these topics in wordy, over complicated prose but with powerful images and short, thought-provoking statements. In her interview, she says that her movie “needed some kind of conflict or other dimension. Also, it seemed lame and potentially maudlin to make a “love story” movie.” If she had tried to make a video for her husband that just consisted of her own feelings about love and their upcoming wedding, it probably would have been cheesy, cliché, or at the very least not as powerful or memorable as this. The images of the spacecrafts, especially the one that exploded, perfectly compliment her resolution that “We have to know in order to love. We have to risk everything. We have to open ourselves up — to contact — even with the possibility of disaster,” and without this juxtaposition, her script probably would have seemed a bit trifling. Instead she gives us the story of the voyagers, and the interesting love story that inspired them to help the viewer fill in the gaps, and really understand what she’s trying to say.
In her interview, she talks about her difficulty finding “the center of the spiral: the narrative anchor that is strong enough to hang all the wandering and meandering and pondering on to.” When I got to this line, I thought “YES” because she was able to vocalize the difficulty that I am having (more common than I realized) with my own video essay. The Voyagers are her “center” because they represent love’s “irrational hope” and “cold hard reason” in a way that a thousand words probably wouldn’t be able to adequately express. She’s successfully accomplished one of the main tasks of the essayists by making these associations that we would never realize on our own, but help us to understand a difficult concept or feeling.