The “Satellite” Challenge
In the audio commentary to Satellite, the new IndiePix Films DVD release, Director Jeff Winner comments (at about 57:00) that: “we see them trying to figure out their responsibilities in this new world they have created, to themselves and other people … we want them to work things out but we see them making choices that we don’t agree with, we have difficulty following them down that path, and we as an audience are challenged by what’s happening.”
Jean Paul Sartre, the Philospher, literary icon and playwright of post WWII Europe in France, wrote about the idea of the “free man”. The Free Man (and presumably that was intended as a generic term, not to be taken in a sexist way) was free of bourgeois constraints and expectations and created his/her own life by his actions. Through his/her free actions he/she defined the shape and meaning of his/her life.
And that is exactly where the two lead characters (Kevin, Ro) start their story in “Satellite”. We see enough of their lives in mid town Manhattan, in different but nearby ad agencies, to understand the “bourgeois constraints and expectations” of their organizations and their bosses. But the game is on when Kevin calls Ro and says: “I want you to quit. Walk out. Right now.”
It’s not really a game, though. We understand through their performances that they mean to discover through their lives together “something different” or “something better” — but essentially something they define for themselves. And key to that search is the pledge that they will never lie to each other. Their freedom leads them in directions that will make some viewers uncomfortable. (But … well, that discomfort is part of what this story is about.)
M. Sartre had a similar problem with his concept of the “Free Man” because, as his critics pointed out, that person, male or female, could become directionless, self centered, acting in ways that were not socially constructive. Where would that person’s moral compass come from? Sartre’s answer, which he delivered in a lecture in 1945 (and subsequently published in 1946) was entitled Existentialism is a Humanism. With the radical freedoms of being a “free man”, she/he understands the truly unlimited responsibilities of being human.
That sounds so very theoretical until you experience the final action scene in “Satellite”. Kevin and Ro, acting from their freedom as individuals and with each other, define their lives and responsibilities in a profoundly human act.
The director repeatedly says that this is a fairy tale, “almost like you have seen it before”. It does have that quality, but it is certainly a challenging fairy tale, as Winner set out to achieve.