Ever have an interpretation of a book or a film, that no one else seems to get?
I’m taking a break from my usual topics to delve into my interpretation of one of my “guilty pleasure” films — “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun,” also known across the pond as “Doppelganger”.
This flick was panned by the movie critics of the day. But then, run-o-the-mill movie critics rarely “get” hard sci-fi. In my estimation, “Journey” has a great story concept, and stupendous special effects — brought to life by one of my industry heroes, Derek Meddings. Admittedly, the pace of the film is slo-o-ow, mostly due to meticulous attention to details of space technology, present and future. However, that’s hardly an issue for me — it’s a techno-geek’s dream come true!
But I digress…
The film has a real slap-in-the-face ending — SPOILER ALERT!
The character of Jason Webb dies, reaching for … for what?
Now here’s how I interpret the slap-in-the-face:
just before he dies, the film gives us a ton of clues that the whole thing — EUROSEC, the new planet, the two disastrous space voyages, the whole shebang — were all a figment of Jason Webb’s imagination (if not mental illness).
Nothing was real, the whole story was ALL Jason Webb’s age-related dementia.
I have yet to find anyone who fully agrees with my interpretation. The best response I’ve gotten after two decades is polite skepticism. So let’s see if I can convince you why I believe what I believe.
It all hinges on the wristwatch cardio-monitor that appears multiple times throughout the film. Among other times when it’s only hinted at, we actually see the monitor when: a) Dr. Hassler (Herbert Lom) is assassinated, and we watch the trinket go bonkers as he dies; b) when Jason Webb himself (Partick Wymark) gets agitated, astronaut Glenn Ross (Roy Thinnes) tells Jason to pay attention to his cardio-monitor, and we see it blipping away.
Fast forward to the end of the film.
A much-older Webb complains to his nurse that “all records are gone” and “no one believes me,” (Hint 1). The nurse, wearing a stodgy uniform (Hint 2), checks his pulse (Hint 3 – THE GIVEAWAY).
Now consider these apparent contradictions —
If this scene occurs ages after the events of everything that passed before, then:
1) WHY is the nurse wearing an old-style uniform, not one of the futuristic health professional uniforms we saw previously in the film?
2) WHY does the nurse check his pulse by TOUCH? Why doesn’t she simply look at his cardio-monitor? This action is so critical, it is plastered in lens close-up: I claim the filmmakers intended this to be noticed!
3) Webb had a cardio-monitor all throughout the film. WHY doesn’t he have one now? (If anything, decades later he would have a “new & improved” cardio-monitor, no?)
I’ll tell you why – because the nursing home scene is NOT in the future, and the cardio-gadget doesn’t exist. Ergo, the whole thing was in Webb’s delusional mind.
The poor schlub kills himself chasing nothing but a fevered phantasm.
OK – that’s my opinion. I’d love to hear yours. If you disagree, don’t just lob tomatoes — give us your explanation of these inconsistencies.
On the topic of unexpected endings — it’s my meat and potatoes.
But don’t take my word for it. Some really nice reviews are rolling in for my latest book, “If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep”,
“…amazing stories that would chill me to the bone one minute and then leave me surprised the next.” — Readers’ Favorite