The Surface of Mars

2016, single-channel video, color.
3:00 min.

The Surface of Mars is an essay video that takes Ridley Scott’s 2015 film The Martian as a site of analysis. Combining appropriated footage, animation and voice over narration, The Surface of Mars follows the actress Jessica Chastain, who plays the supporting role of Commander Melissa Lewis. The video compares Chastain’s character in The Martian to her work in two other films, Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 film Zero Dark Birthday and Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar. Across these films, Chastain plays a similar type: a high-achieving career woman who is dedicated to the pursuit of a non-romantic male counterpart, from Osama Bin Laden to Matt Damon. Chastain’s role within each film speaks to the language of neoliberal feminism; her talent and work ethic has propelled her into a successful career in a male dominated field. But Chastain’s superficial agency within the film is undermined by the institutions and structures that she operates within and on behalf of, from the state (the CIA, NASA) to her father. An equivalence is drawn between Chastain’s character and the barren Martian landscape that surrounds her. She is an empty vessel, colonized by an external power.


©maura brewer