Films that told the future 002: Woman in the Moon

A space obsessed entrepreneur, a woman on the moon. Fritz Lang’s 1929 sci-fi may be closer than you think.

While Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis is laud­ed for its vision of the future, it’s the Aus­tri­an filmmaker’s less­er-known Woman in the Moon (1929) that made far more pre­scient calls about the future.

Writ­ten by Lang’s long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor and then-wife Thea von Har­bou, Woman in the Moon fol­lows the sto­ry of Helius, an entre­pre­neur who sets out on a voy­age to the Moon hav­ing read the the­o­ry of a mad sci­en­tist who claims there’s gold to found there (we’re not sure who’s inspir­ing Elon Musk’s space ven­tures, it’s prob­a­bly just the chron­ic weed talk­ing).

Pri­or to his adven­ture, Helius is black­mailed into col­lab­o­rat­ing with a gang of evil busi­ness­men who’ve learned of his plan and are eager to get their hands on some of that sweet Moon gold. To fur­ther com­pli­cate things, Helius is accom­pa­nied on his trip by Windeg­ger, his assis­tant, and Friede, the woman both men love. Awks.

Fritz Lang was a bit of a stick­ler when it came to research­ing the tech­nol­o­gy required for a trip to the Moon, enlist­ing the help of promi­nent Ger­man physi­cist and engi­neer Her­mann Oberth. Between Lang, Har­bou and Oberth, Woman in the Moon pre­dict­ed a ton of space­far­ing hall­marks that would lat­er appear on real launchpads.

30 years before NASA final­ly got round to space trav­el, Lang’s rock­et is assem­bled in a huge hang­er and moved to the launch site. His cardi­gan-clad astro­nauts (so not entire­ly accu­rate) crew a mul­ti­stage rock­et for their jour­ney, lying on their backs in order to counter the effects of g-force.

Woman in the Moon was also first to fea­ture a count­down. While count­downs today are an essen­tial way of allow­ing tech­ni­cians and astro­nauts to syn­chro­nise their activ­i­ty, Lang used it to build excite­ment before sound would help direc­tors such as Christo­pher Nolan add tension.

Almost 100 years lat­er Woman in the Moons pre­dic­tions con­tin­ue to come true, with NASA con­firm­ing that they’re plan­ning to send a woman to the Moon 50 years after the first Apol­lo mis­sion.

There’s also the issue of who can lay claim to the Moon’s boun­ty. No, not the spu­ri­ous acres you can buy on Ama­zon, but rather nat­ur­al resources such as Heli­um-3, rare earth met­als, and actu­al gold. The ques­tion has been lent even more weight thanks to ini­tia­tives such as Google’s LunarX prize and Trump recent­ly promis­ing to send humans back to the lunar sur­face.

Woman in the Moon con­cludes with Helius sac­ri­fic­ing his spot on the return jour­ney to Earth due to an unfor­tu­nate oxy­gen short­age. Helius dis­cov­ers that Friede, instead of return­ing with Windeg­ger, has decid­ed to stay with him on the Moon, which is just as well giv­en that he named his rock­et after her. Risky.

Per­haps this was Woman in the Moons final pre­dic­tion, giv­en that tech bil­lion­aires are now eye­ing up alter­na­tives to our home plan­et. There’s no men­tion of human­i­ty ruin­ing plan­et earth, Helius and Friede prob­a­bly thought a soli­tary exis­tence on the Moon was just a bet­ter option. And who can argue with that?

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