The Same River Twice(New Video, 2.22.2005)
If you could look your future in the eye, would it recognize you? This is the intriguing premise of director Robb Moss' gorgeous, poignant, very personal documentary, The Same River Twice. This is a before and after look at five people in their late 20s, juxtaposed against interviews and images of the same people 20 years later. The earlier images are taken from Moss' 1978 film River Dogs. That film, shot beautifully in 16mm, chronicles a month long river-rafting trip taken by Moss and 16 of his friends. These young adults spent their summers working as Colorado-River Guides and often embarked on voyages of their own.
There is not a lot of talking in the earlier material. Rather, we see images of carefree, (usually) naked men and women, making their way aimlessly and happily down the river. Still, they already seem aware that a stage of their life is passing. Moss cuts back and forth between then and now, allowing his friends to watch the older footage and describe their feelings. It's a striking contrast, offset even further by Moss' decision to shoot the new footage on digital video.
This is not a stereotypical film about former hippies becoming conventional suburbanites. Little mention is made about the politcs of the times. Instead, Moss deals with a group of people trying to make sense of the aging process, both physically and emotionally.
The Same River Twice will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt aware of the transition from a life of little responsiblitly (university, anyone?) to a life fraught with the burdens of being a full fledged adult. The film shows us five individuals exercising their last days of complete and utter freedom, before serious commitments such as marriage, children, and careers consume their lives. As one woman comments while watching her younger self on TV, "back then, we had nothing but time".
The DVD contains a filmmaker Q&A, in which Moss elaborates on some of the film's themes and ideas, acknowledging the things he wishes he'd done differently. Also included is the theatrical trailer, filmmaker and crew biographies, and a feature length audio commentary with Moss (who now teaches film at Harvard University). While the commentary is intersting, it is also somewhat sparse with long stretches of silence.
The title of this film is taken from a famous quote by Heraclitus: "one cannot step twice into the same river." The meaing of this is made clear as we watch these five people go back to the Colorado river, via Moss' old footage, with brand new eyes. Watching and listening to their testimonies, we see that the river is no longer the same for these five middle-aged individuals. This is a subtle and moving picture. -- Sarah Duda